Austin pledges continued support for Ukraine, Taiwan

By Tony Bertuca / March 2, 2023 at 2:04 PM

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin today released a "message to the force," again centering China as the Pentagon's "pacing challenge," and pledging continued security assistance for Ukraine and Taiwan.

“Implementing our strategy means tackling the pacing challenge from the People's Republic of China (PRC) while also confronting the acute threat of Russian aggression and managing the risk of escalation as [Russian President Vladimir] Putin' s cruel war against Ukraine enters a second year,” Austin said in a Pentagon-wide memo.

The defense secretary said an “increasingly aggressive” China represents a “generational challenge” for the United States as Beijing is “trying to shape the international rules-based system to suit its authoritarian preferences.”

Austin said the United States will provide “self-defense capabilities” to Taiwan as the threat from China “evolves.”

Meanwhile, the United States is working through an $18 billion foreign military sales backlog with Taiwan that has drawn the focus of Congress. The State Department on Wednesday notified Congress of a new $619 million FMS deal with Taiwan for F-16 munitions.

Austin, in his memo, also said the United States will continue to support Ukraine as it continues to fight off an ongoing Russian invasion.

“We are determined to support Ukraine's fight for freedom over the long haul,” he said. “Working closely with our allies, we have already strengthened NATO' s Eastern Flank, and we will continue to strengthen our collective defense and deterrence.”

Additionally, Austin said climate change represents another crisis for the Defense Department.

“Our strategy and planning addresses the security implications of our changing climate,” he said “We are developing new platforms that mitigate logistical risks in contested environments. We are also investing to improve mission resilience and cut the risks from extreme weather.”

Austin said the department is also working to modernize the U.S. military “from hypersonic weapons to our Joint Warfighting Concept, from data analysis to artificial intelligence.”