- Ambassador Kurt Volker: US to Drastically Expand Military Assistance to Ukraine
by PETER KORZUN, https://www.strategic-culture.org/
Washington is upping the ante in Ukraine. Kurt Volker, US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, said in an interview with the Guardian published on September 1 that “Washington is ready to expand arms supplies to Ukraine in order to build up the country’s naval and air defense forces in the face of continuing Russian support for eastern separatists.” According to him, the Trump administration was “absolutely” prepared to go further in supplying lethal weaponry to Ukrainian forces than the anti-tank missiles it delivered in April. “They need lethal assistance,” he emphasized. Mr. Volker explained that “[t]hey need to rebuild a navy and they have very limited air capability as well. I think we’ll have to look at air defense.” The diplomat believes Ukraine needs unmanned aerial vehicles, counter-battery radar systems, and anti-sniper systems. The issue of lethal arms purchases has been discussed at the highest level.
The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 allocated $250m in military assistance to Ukraine, including lethal arms. The US has delivered Javelin anti-tank missile systems to Kiev but this time the ambassador talked about an incomparably larger deal. Former President Barack Obama had been unconvinced that granting Ukraine lethal defensive weapons would be the right decision, in view of the widespread corruption there. This policy has changed under President Trump, who — among other things — approved deliveries of anti-tank missiles to Kiev last December.
Ukraine has officially requested US air-defense systems. According to Valeriy Chaly, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, the Ukrainian military wants to purchase at least three air-defense systems. The cost of the deal is expected to exceed $2 billion, or about $750 million apiece. The system in question was not specified, but it’s generally believed to be the Patriot.
Volker’s statement was made at a time of rising tensions in the Sea of Azov, which is legally shared by Ukraine and Russia. It is connected to the Black Sea through the Kerch Strait. The rhetoric has heated up and ships have been placed under arrest as this territorial dispute turns the area into a flashpoint. Russia has slammed the US for backing Ukraine’s violations of international law in the area. According to a 2003 treaty, the Sea of Azov is a jointly controlled territory that both countries are allowed to use freely.