In his first public appearance since the incapacitation scandal, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin addressed the contentious issue of American aid to Ukraine. Despite a recent audit revealing over $1 billion in U.S. military equipment unaccounted for, Austin firmly stated that there is “no credible evidence” of misuse or illicit diversion of this aid.
It can be recalled that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, 70, secretly had prostate cancer surgery on December 22. He was placed under general anesthesia for the operation after being gravely ill with a spreading infection and intestinal issues requiring a tube to drain his stomach. Then, on January 1, he was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland following the complications from the surgery.
The Pentagon said that Austin did not inform Joe Biden, the White House, or Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks about the medical procedure.
Austin kept just about everyone in the dark about his condition until early January, including Joe Biden, even though the U.S. is involved in conflicts in the Middle East and Europe and a hot zone in the South China Sea.
Austin’s chief of staff, Kelly Magsamen, had previously ordered an in-house investigation of the mishandling of Austin’s absence. Magsamen has been blamed in press reports for failing to notify the White House, Congress and senior DoD staff of Austin’s illness and absence because she was ill with the flu.
On Tuesday, Austin participated in the Ukraine Defense Contact Group’s video conference, which was made public by the Defense Department, marking his return to the public eye.
Austin did not explicitly address his recent hospitalization during the meeting.
“It’s great to see you all again. As you can tell, I’m joining from home today,” Austin said in his initial remarks in the monthly meeting. “I’m feeling good and looking forward to being back at the Pentagon very soon. And I’m grateful for all of your warm wishes. So thanks for working across the time zones to join us for the 18th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group.”
The event took place against a backdrop of increasing questions regarding the transparency and efficacy of U.S. aid to Ukraine.
The Gateway Pundit previously reported that a recent Pentagon report has brought to light that over $1 billion in military aid sent to Ukraine by the United States has not been properly accounted for.
The Defense Department report, which was presented to Congress on Thursday, reveals serious lapses in the tracking of critical weapons systems amidst heated congressional debates regarding additional support for Ukraine.
The unaccounted-for arsenal includes advanced shoulder-fired missiles, sophisticated kamikaze drones, and state-of-the-art night vision devices.
These items are classified as “high-risk” due to their advanced technology and the ease with which they could be transported and potentially fall into the wrong hands.
According to the report, of nearly 40,000 arms delivered to Ukraine, a substantial proportion has not been adequately monitored.
The report added, “It was beyond the scope of our evaluation to determine whether there has been diversion of such assistance. The DoD OIG now has personnel stationed in Ukraine, and the DoD OIG’s Defense Criminal Investigative Service continues to investigate allegations of criminal conduct with regard to U.S. security assistance to Ukraine.”
Austin, however, claimed that there was no evidence of misuse regarding the weapons in question.
“The United States continues to work hard to monitor and account for U. S. Security assistance delivered to Ukraine. And we’ve seen no credible evidence of the misuse or illicit diversion of American equipment provided to Ukraine. But what we do see is Ukraine using the capabilities that we provided to defend itself against Russian aggression,” he said.
Defense Sec. Lloyd Austin — in his his first public appearance since his incapacitation scandal — says there’s “no credible evidence” of “misuse” in U.S. equipment provided to Ukraine, even after an audit found they “lost track” of $1+ billion in equipment. pic.twitter.com/88zbh9CGQO
— RNC Research (@RNCResearch) January 23, 2024
According to an unnamed senior adviser to Zelenskyy, people at the top are “stealing” like there is no tomorrow and Ukraine’s president faces pressure to root out corruption as its allies continue to give the country everything it asks for, as reported by Time Magazine.
In January 2023, several high-ranking officials were removed from their positions. This group includes a top presidential adviser, four deputy ministers — two of whom were defense officials — and five regional governors.
As per the disclosure by senior government official Oleg Nemchinov, the following individuals have been relieved of their duties:
- Deputy Prosecutor General Oleskiy Symonenko
- Deputy Minister for Development of Communities and Territories Ivan Lukerya
- Deputy Minister for Development of Communities and Territories Vyacheslav Negoda
- Deputy Minister for Social Policy Vitaliy Muzychenko
- Regional Governors of Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhia, Kyiv, Sumy, and Kherson
The Ministry of Defense previously announced the resignation of Deputy Minister Vyacheslav Shapovalov, who was responsible for the army’s logistical support. This followed allegations of signing food contracts at exorbitant prices.
Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov resigned in September in what Reuters referred to as a “wartime shakeup” of Zelenskyy’s Cabinet.
Reports that people in the Ukrainian government are “stealing” come as President Joe Biden and U.S. lawmakers face pushback from taxpayers about their blank check policy toward funding a war with no end in sight.
Last year, the Pentagon revealed that an overestimation in the value of weapons sent to Ukraine over the past two years has resulted in an extra $6.2 billion of U.S. taxpayers’ money earmarked for the Eastern European country. This figure is approximately double what was originally estimated and allegedly will be utilized for future security packages.
Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh provided clarification on the nature of the error, explaining that the military services had used the replacement cost rather than the book value of equipment pulled from Pentagon stocks and sent to Ukraine.
According to Singh, the error was identified during a detailed review of the accounting process.
“We discovered inconsistencies in equipment valuation for Ukraine. In a significant number of cases, services used replacement costs rather than net book value, thereby overestimating the value of the equipment drawn down from U.S. stock and provided to Ukraine,” Singh said at a news briefing.