Ukraine seeks weapons through Pentagon foreign sales program for first time
By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: July 8, 2019
Ukraine has asked for the first time to buy U.S. military equipment through the Pentagon’s weapons sales program, a request under consideration as Kiev continues its battle against Russian-backed separatists, America’s top diplomat in the country said.
“We are beginning the review process for that request,” said William Taylor, the U.S. chief of mission in Ukraine, in a statement Sunday. “The United States stands firmly with Ukraine in support of its sovereignty, territorial integrity, and defense sector reforms.”
On Monday, Taylor and Ukrainian military officials traveled to the administrative boundary line of Crimea, a territory that Russia annexed in 2014 and a major source of political tension between Moscow and the West.
“Crimea is Ukraine,” the U.S. Embassy in Kiev said in a tweet announcing Taylor’s visit to the boundary line.
For five years, the U.S. has called upon Russia to pull out of Ukraine and stop supporting separatists. However, fighting continues in Ukraine’s eastern provinces, where about 4,000 Ukrainian troops have been killed since 2014, according to the United Nations.
While the West has offered various forms of support to Ukraine’s military since 2014, the U.S. only recently began providing lethal military gear, which the Obama administration resisted over concerns it would escalate tensions.
U.S. lawmakers and military officials, however, have advocated stepping up support. Last year, the Trump administration began providing anti-tank Javelin missiles and other weaponry.
Last month, the Defense Department also said it will provide $250 million in military aid to Ukraine, including more sniper rifles, grenade launchers and counter-artillery radars.
In September, the U.S. Coast Guard transferred two Island-class cutters, armed with .50-caliber machine guns and 25 mm deck guns, to Ukraine to bolster the country’s small navy.
While Ukraine now says it wants to make more purchases, it’s not clear what types of systems Kiev is seeking. Given the country’s weak economy, it’s also unclear clear how large of a deal is in the works.
For President Donald Trump, boosting weapon sales to allies and partners has been a top military priority. In 2018, U.S. foreign military sales for the year were up by 33%, according to the Defense Cooperation Agency.