Bill on U.S. defense: Ukraine, sanctions and loopholes for Russia

Author : Georgiy Kuhaleyshvili

Source : 112 Ukraine

Some provisions in the US defense bill create loopholes for Russia in the field of arms trade, bypassing existing sanctions
21:37, 30 July 2018

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A draft law on powers in the field of national defense for 2019, which is abbreviated as "defense law", was drafted in the US Congress. This document defines the financing of the activities of the US Armed Forces, and it proposes the amount of the defense budget for each year. Next year, the US plans to spend a total of $ 717 billion on defense, which is 2.5% more than in 2018 ($ 700 billion). In addition to financial aspects and organizational arrangements in the US Army, the draft law prescribes US priorities in the field of international security. Among them is the Ukrainian question and restraint of Russia's aggression. Like any bill, this document will acquire the highest legal force after the signing by the president. However, the draft law did not dispense with ambiguous points that concern the policy of anti-Russian sanctions.

The US continues to restrain Russia

US lawmakers consider it necessary to intensify the policy of deterring Russia in Europe for reasons of US security. The bill proposes to increase the defense capacity of European partners and, if necessary, suppress Russia's aggression. Despite the fact that US President Donald Trump advocates the reduction of military assistance to NATO allies, the bill proposes to allocate $ 6.3 billion to finance the European Defense Initiative - a program to enhance the defense capabilities of European countries. America will preserve and increase its military presence in Europe, increase the effectiveness of long-range artillery, anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense, engineering, logistics, electronic warfare.

No matter how Trump criticized NATO, Congress intends to continue participating in Atlantic Decisiveness Operation aimed to contain Russian aggression in Europe. It is proposed to consider the possibility of the continued presence of US special forces in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania, to explore the possibilities of Russia's military actions in the Arctic, to conduct military cooperation with the Balkan countries and to develop a strategy for supporting such European allies as Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria and Poland. The Congress is considering the possibility of financing a program to develop a low-power warhead for ballistic missiles as a means of containing Russia. US lawmakers are concerned about the latest Russian developments in the field of armaments, including the Burevestnik nuclear cruise missile, the supersonic missile system Avangard, the Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile, the Poseidon submarine drone and the Dagger supersonic missile.

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The draft law on powers in the field of national defense contains a ban on military cooperation between the US and Russia. The US Armed Forces cannot have contacts with the Russian army, except when it is necessary to reduce the threat of an armed conflict. Similar provisions were contained in the editions of the Defense Act of previous years. However, this time they disagree with what Trump and Putin discussed at the summit in Helsinki. They expressed interest in intensifying bilateral cooperation in the field of security. After the summit in Helsinki, the press secretary of the Russian Defense Ministry, Igor Konashenkov, announced the readiness of his department to restore contacts with the Pentagon and between the two countries' general staffs, to discuss the extension of the treaty on the reduction of offensive weapons, cooperation in Syria and other topics related to interaction in the military sphere.

The defense bill once again confirms that the majority of legislators in Congress do not welcome the idea of rapprochement between the United States and Russia in modern conditions. Many senators and congressmen brought a stream of criticism of the president after his talks with Putin. The head of the Armed Services Committee in the Senate, Republican John McCain, called Trump's meeting with Putin in Helsinki one of the most disgraceful acts of the American president in history. In his opinion, Trump chose to defend the dictator. The leader of the democratic minority in the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi believes that Trump showed weakness at a meeting with Putin.

The Ukrainian question

A special attention in the bill of the Congress is devoted to Ukraine. In 2019, the US will continue to support us in countering Russia's aggression. It is about helping Ukraine in the part of lethal military assistance and carrying out institutional defense reforms. The text of the bill does not specify which specific lethal weapons the Americans will offer. In March of this year, the United States delivered 37 portable antitank guns FGM-148 Javelin and 210 charges to them for $ 47 million. Also, delivery of night vision devices, electronic warfare equipment, medicines for the needs of the Ukrainian army is planned. In 2019, the US intends to conduct military exercises in the Black Sea together with Ukraine and Georgia.

The states plan to allocate, according to various estimates, from 200 to 250 million dollars to support security in Ukraine. The bill states that the funds allocated cannot be used in activities related to the spread of Russia's sovereignty to Crimea. Republican senator Rob Portman said that the decision to allocate military assistance to Ukraine confirms the long-term cooperation of the two countries in the field of defense.

However, last year's edition of the defense law dealt with a larger amount for Ukraine - $ 350 million. In 2018, the total volume of various US financial assistance to Ukraine amounted to $ 620.7 million. Since 2014, the United States has provided Ukraine with military assistance worth more than 1 billion dollars. Probably, the US is not in a hurry to increase the amount of military assistance until Ukraine completes the reform process. According to the Strategic Culture, the United States requires a number of reforms in the defense sector from Ukraine. President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko recently signed a law on national security, which in theory should comply with US law standards and allow the US to open its funds for us. However, according to the former lieutenant colonel of the British army Glen Grant, the shortcoming of the new law is not very clear language, the lack of an accurate distribution of responsibilities in the defense and joint staff at the level of the ministry and the general staff.

Loopholes for Russia

Some provisions in the US defense bill create loopholes for Russia in the field of arms trade, bypassing existing sanctions. The bill provides for the possibility of abolishing some restrictive measures by members of the presidential administration provided in the act on countering America's opponents through sanctions of 2017. Alternatively, grant the right of lifting sanctions to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo. The argument for this decision was the desire of the Trump administration to release from the anti-Russian sanctions countries that previously purchased Russian weapons. In the opinion of US Secretary of Defense James Mattis, these countries will be able to build closer relations with America in the security sphere and continue rearming from Russian equipment to the US one. In fact, the US gives such countries the opportunity to use both American and Russian or Soviet weapons.

The Congress is guided by US arms manufacturers, which recently began selling their products to India, Vietnam and Indonesia. These states use a significant amount of Russian weapons, and from the point of view of the policy of anti-Russian sanctions, the US should not sell their weapons to them. As a result, a compromise was proposed. The US will retain the right to impose sanctions on those countries that will conclude new deals with Russia on the delivery of modern weapons, such as the S-400 anti-missile systems, but not to touch those countries that buy Russian spare parts for long-acquired Soviet or Russian equipment, including helicopters. The US expects to break the contract for the supply of anti-missile systems S-400 to Turkey or the Russian-Qatar deal on the acquisition of Kalashnikov assault rifles, grenade cup discharges and anti-tank missile systems Kornet.

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However, the Russian Federation will be able to maintain unhindered relations with purchasers of components for arms of the countries of Asia and Africa. After all, accessories for Soviet tanks and aircraft will be in demand for many years to come. The US could make such a concession to Russia in exchange for cooperation in resolving the conflict in Syria and reducing the activity of Iranian troops on the border with Israel. The other day, troops of Bashar Assad, sponsored by Russia, gave the opportunity for representatives of the Syrian opposition to be evacuated to the province of Idlib from the southern regions of Syria. After talks with Trump in Helsinki, Putin expressed an interest in ensuring peace in the Golan Heights and the security of Israel. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov confirmed his interest in withdrawing Iranian troops 100 kilometers from the Syrian-Israeli border. Israel rejected this proposal, since Iranian ballistic missiles are capable of overcoming this distance and hitting Israeli cities.

Despite the fact that the Americans continue the policy of anti-Russian sanctions, in some situations they are ready to make certain allowances for Russians, if this does not differ from their interests. That's just such a position is unacceptable for countries that are subject to Russian aggression, including Ukraine.

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