Pentagon Giving $200 Million to Ukraine to 'Build Defensive Capacity'

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko speaks during a press conference in Kiev, Ukraine, on Feb. 28, 2018. (Sergii Kharchenko/NurPhoto/Sipa via AP Images)

WASHINGTON — The day after the White House said Russian President Vladimir Putin was invited to visit D.C. in the fall, the Pentagon announced that it was allocating $200 million in security funds to Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials have been concerned that President Trump and Putin would strike a deal regarding the country without consulting Kiev beforehand. During their one-on-one meeting, Putin reportedly pushed “concrete proposals” for a referendum in parts of eastern Ukraine; a National Security Council spokesman told CBS today that the administration is “not considering supporting” the idea, saying that a vote to determine the future of the region is not included in the Minsk Agreements.

The Defense Department said in a statement Friday afternoon that it would provide $200 million to Ukraine in “security cooperation funds for additional training, equipment and advisory efforts to build the defensive capacity of Ukraine’s forces.”

“This reaffirms the long-standing defense relationship between the United States and Ukraine and brings the total U.S. security sector assistance to Ukraine to more than $1 billion since 2014,” said the Pentagon. “The added funds will provide equipment to support ongoing training programs and operational needs, including capabilities to enhance Ukraine’s command and control, situational awareness systems, secure communications, military mobility, night vision, and military medical treatment.”

The Defense Department added that the “security cooperation builds on Ukraine’s recent adoption of the Law on National Security.”

“This law, which provides a legislative framework for aligning Ukraine’s national security architecture with Euro-Atlantic principles, constitutes a major step toward Ukraine’s goal of achieving NATO interoperability. The implementation of these reforms will bolster Ukraine’s ability to defend its territorial integrity in support of a secure and democratic Ukraine,” the statement said, adding that “a timeline for delivery and fielding of equipment will be determined at a later date.”

Speaking to reporters at the end of March, Defense Secretary James Mattis unleashed on Russia for the “pretty obvious …use of a weapon of mass destruction, a chemical agent, for the first time in Europe since World War II” — referring to the use of Novichock in an attempt to assassinate a former KGB double agent and his daughter. Discarded Novichok in a perfume bottle killed a woman who, with her partner who was also sickened, collected valuables out of dumpsters.

“They’re doing things that they believe are deniable,” Mattis said of Russia. “They take insignia off soldiers’ uniforms and they go into Crimea.  They say they have nothing to do with what’s going on with the separatists in eastern Ukraine; I’m not sure how they can say that with a straight face.”

“They point out that it can’t be proven who had tried to kill the person in Salisbury. They’re doing things they believe are deniable,” he added. “And so they’re trying to break the unity of the Western alliance, NATO and that sort of thing. It’s been pretty clear that they’ve been inside other people’s elections.”