US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin highlighted America's ability to address "crises in multiple theaters" simultaneously on Wednesday, apparently dismissing concerns that the renewed Israel-Hamas conflict would affect its security commitments to Ukraine and other partners.
Austin made the remarks on the margins of a defense ministerial meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels, as Washington announced an additional security aid package, valued at up to $200 million, for Ukraine.
"Make no mistake. The United States will remain able to project power and to direct resources to tackle crises in multiple theaters," Austin told a press briefing. "So, we will stand firmly with Israel as we continue to support Ukraine."
Following the eruption of the conflict sparked by the Hamas militant group's surprise attack on Israel on Saturday, the US deployed the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) Carrier Strike Group to the Eastern Mediterranean and moved to extend US Air Force fighter squadrons to the region, Austin noted.
"The Department of Defense stands fully ready to deploy additional assets if necessary," he added.
Austin also reiterated President Joe Biden's stark warning against those looking to exploit the conflict in the Middle East.
"For any country, for any organization or for anyone thinking about trying to take advantage of the agony in Israel to try to widen this conflict or try to spill more blood, we have just one word: Don't," he said.
In Brussels, the secretary also attended a session of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group consisting of countries supporting Ukraine's fight against Russia.
During the session, Austin chastised Hamas for its "appalling" attack while reiterating the "shared commitment" to Ukraine.
"The full horror of the attacks by Hamas continues to become more clear and more appalling," he said. "The United States stands firmly with Israel as it defends itself and its citizens from this vile Hamas terrorist assault."
The Israel-Hamas conflict has become a top US security priority as it has left at least 22 Americans dead and at least 17 others unaccounted for according to the latest tally by the White House.
The focus on the fighting has sparked concerns about whether the US can maintain the same level of attention to Ukraine -- a possible reason why the Biden administration was quick to announce additional security assistance despite legislative difficulty caused by the recent ouster of the House speaker.
The latest aid package for Ukraine included AIM-9M air defense missiles, 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds and additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, according to a Pentagon press release. (Yonhap)