The Department of Defense announced today its plans for $250 million in Fiscal Year 2020 Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) funds for additional training, equipment, and advisory efforts ‘to strengthen Ukraine’s capacity to more effectively defend itself against Russian aggression’.
The statement declares that the USAI reaffirms the long-standing defence relationship between the United States and Ukraine – a critical partner on the front line of strategic competition with Russia. The United States remains steadfast in its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.
The USAI funds – $125 million of which was conditional on Ukraine’s progress on military reforms – will provide equipment to support ongoing training programs and operational needs. This includes capabilities to enhance Ukraine’s defensive lethal capabilities and situational awareness in the maritime domain, air surveillance systems to monitor sovereign airspace, command and control and survivability of Ukraine’s Land and Special Operations Forces through the provision of counter-artillery radars and tactical equipment, military medical treatment and combat evacuation procedures, and cyber defence and strategic communications to counter Russian cyber offensive operations and misinformation.
These efforts are complemented by increased security assistance support from key NATO Allies and partners. The United States continues to urge all allies and partners to enhance their support for Ukraine’s security and defence sector. The United States also welcomes recent Ukrainian investments in US defence articles that further strengthen our strategic partnership.
The official statement claims that these security cooperation programs are made possible by Ukraine’s continued progress on key defence institutional and anti-corruption reforms. LINK
The Ukrainian Embassy in the US released a statement saying:
“We appreciate the continued strong support of our U.S. partners aimed at strengthening defense capabilities of Ukraine, which is fighting with Russian aggression. The reform of the national security and defense sector remains one of the major priorities of the Government of Ukraine.”
According to the US Department of Defense portal:
Since 2014 the U.S. has provided more than $1.6 billion in security assistance to help Ukraine defend its territorial integrity, deter further Russian aggression, and progress toward NATO interoperability. Alongside key NATO allies, the U.S. is training and advising Ukrainian security forces in western Ukraine through the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine to help improve Ukraine’s internal defense capabilities and develop an institutional training capacity in accordance with NATO standards…
The U.S. and Ukraine co-host two annual military exercises: Exercise Rapid Trident, an annual, multinational exercise focused on situational training and field training, and Exercise Sea Breeze, a multinational maritime exercise held in the Black Sea to strengthen regional maritime security. LINK
Global Research notes that US and NATO military involvement in Ukraine since 2014 has included US military training and advisors (initially at battalion level, later at brigade level), weapons sales and closer involvement with Ukraine’s special forces units.
U.S. weapons manufacturers have been providing the UAF with specialized small arms and sniper rifles chambered in NATO standard ammunition as well as non-standard high- powered rifle rounds. Russian equivalent rocket-propelled grenades (RPG) systems and projectiles manufactured in the U.S. have also been provided. Most recently, President Trump approved the sale of Javelin ATGMs to Kiev. The initial $47 million sale consists of 210 missiles and 37 launch units. While some analysts see this more as a symbolic move meant to send a message to Russia that U.S. foreign policy under Trump is still one of containment of Russia, by expanding NATO right up to Russia’s borders in every region, other see it as an initial “testing of the waters”. Will Russia acquiesce to the sale or respond in kind by supplying the DPR/LPR with another high-tech weapon system? Regardless, Ukraine is becoming a de-facto NATO military camp, along with the Baltic States, Poland and Romania.
Ukraine special operations forces have clearly undergone a transformation since U.S. military involvement in the country. UAF special operators more closely resemble those of NATO nations. They are now wearing U.S. military issue Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP) “multicam” battle dress uniforms and gear, and are increasingly using western manufactured firearm accessories, optics, and night vision equipment. More notably, the UAF special operations units have adopted a number of small arms and sniper weapons systems that utilize NATO standard ammunition such as the 5.56x45mm intermediate rifle round and the 7.62x51mm rifle round. Sniper rifles chambered in .308 Winchester and .338 Lapua have also been adopted in limited numbers. Ukraine Special Forces, the SBU, and a number of airborne forces have adopted the Israeli Tavor TAR-21, built under license in Ukraine by the Fort firearms manufacturer. The Fort assault rifles have been manufactured and issued in both 5.45x39mm Russian caliber and 5.56x45mm NATO calibre.
A more alarming trend from the point of view of the Russian Ministry of Defense (MOD) is the growing presence of U.S. special operations soldiers on Russia’s borders. The deployment of these highly trained operators has increased nearly 300% in just 11 years. According to a report published in The Nation in October of 2016, European deployments of U.S. special operations forces accounted for 3% of the total in 2006, increasing to 12% by 2017. These elite soldiers were deployed to nations all along Russia’s Western and South Western borders, in countries such as Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Georgia, and even Finland. Just as they have increased training regimens with Ukrainian special forces, they have increased inter-operability with special forces in many other European nations. In 2016 alone, U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) conducted no less than 37 Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) exercises on the European continent, with 18 such exercises in nations bordering Russia. LINK
The latest announcement was made just weeks after the Ukraine participated in a NATO long-range strategic bombing exercise allowing access to Ukrainian air space.
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