From dry rations to military technologies: How international aid strengthened Ukraine's defense

Author : (IWP) Institute of World Policy

Source :

Already in the early stages we saw the key difference in the expectations of Ukrainian side and international partners regarding the military aid to our country
17:42, 9 May 2017

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The beginning of the Russian aggression against Ukraine in 2014 given the poor levels of readiness and equipment of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) has put as priority to official Kyiv to obtain maximum military assistance from international partners, and above all - the United States.

Under such conditions, the logical step was to initiate the process of attracting international assistance to Ukraine.

In March 2014 at the invitation of official Kyiv former commander of NATO forces in Europe, General Wesley Clark and American military theorist Philip Karber came to Ukraine to assess the country's needs for assistance from the US. The report, which was presented at the beginning of April 2014, noted that Ukraine for the most rapid strengthening of defense was needed non-lethal assistance (primarily body armor, night vision systems and secure communication systems).

From its part, the US government at the end of March 2014 supplied 330,000 dry rations ready for use, costing $ 3 million. Similar one-time supply of ready-to-use dry rations ($ 77,000) was made by Norway in June 29, 2014.

Borders first

But soon there were changes in vision of needed help against the backdrop of escalating Ukrainian-Russian opposition in the form of "hybrid war" in eastern Ukraine.

As a result, on April 17, 2014 the US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel at a press conference said that US President Barack Obama approved a grant package of non-lethal military assistance to Ukraine. It meant, in particular, first aid kits, helmets, sleeping bags and water treatment systems for the Armed Forces.

Chuck Hagel also said that the US continues to assess the assistance it can provide Ukraine to strengthen the defense. On April 21, 2014 was published the official notification to provide Kyiv aid at $ 8,000,000 for the purposes of the Armed Forces: demining equipment and communication systems.

Although actually the US made emphasis on helping Ukraine State Border Service (SBS), which was to receive engineering equipment, communications equipment and machines. This division may be explained as the American side saw the main threat in insufficient protection of the state border of Ukraine, which made infiltration of agents and Russian forces in the border region possible.

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As a result, American aid was aimed mostly to counter this threat.

On June 4, 2014, speaking in Warsaw, President Obama announced the provision of body armor, devices of night vision and additional communication facilities costing $ 5 million to AFU. So in June 2014 the US provided a total assistance of $ 23 million. In fact, American government went on to provide the minimum necessary equipment to strengthen the defense of Ukraine only two months after the relevant recommendations of the American experts.

So already in the early stages we saw the key difference in the expectations of the Ukrainian side and international partners.

United States and its allies have focused on institutional development which in the medium and long term was seen as a key element of the success of Ukraine in the conflict with Russia. With this, material and technical assistance got the secondary role. At the same time official Kyiv in increasing scale and expanding range of logistical support saw the main foundation for effective response to Russia in the east.

In early July 2014, which coincided with the restoration of the active phase of ATO, Ukraine started to receive the declared by Barack Obama in Warsaw aid. Ukraine has received from US 1,000 sleeping mats and 3,600 camouflage jackets and 2000Interceptor vests, which were developed, based on the experience of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and have the appropriate level of protection. Also at this time Ukraine received 1,000 vests from France, which official Paris promised to hand over in April 2014.

In total for the period June-September 2014 Ukraine got the approved aid from the United States - 2,000 first aid kits IFAK type, 175 Harris Multiband Handheld Radios communication systems,7  demining robots, 4500 sets of summer and winter forms, 1 000 helmets and 150 night vision devices.

On the other hand, the assessment of lists of weapons that Ukraine wanted to get first from the US, make it possible to better understand the real expectations of official Kyiv and the difference in its vision of the necessary conditions for effective response to Russian aggression in comparison with international partners.

Ukraine appealed to the US and its allies to furnish such types of weapons: sniper rifles and ammunition to them for special operations forces, mortars caliber 60 mm, 80 mm and 120 mm, and warheads, hand grenade MGL-140, starting devices and missiles for Javelin or TOW-II, Stinger, MRAP IFVs and armored vehicles HMMWV type for four teams (1312 units), combat radars oа various types (AN / TPQ-49, AN / TPQ-37, AN / TPQ-36 ) UAV for reconnaissance and providing fire destruction of 2 100 km radius, radios, medical equipment (including 52,000 IFAK kits), night vision systems.

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Thus, Ukraine was talking about the receipt of both lethal and non-lethal weapons and military aid of larger scale which was contrary to the vision of the US and its allies.

It is in this vein Poroshenko spoke before both houses of Congress on September 19, 2014. In his speech, the president of Ukraine officially asked to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons and defense status of the main ally outside NATO.

In fact, the same thing was discussed during the talks with Barack Obama behind closed doors. However, the White House decided to limit the next package of military assistance to Ukraine, which did not include lethal weapons.

The increasing scope of US assistance to Ukraine during the summer of 2014 was the "green light" for US allies to provide their aid to official Kyiv.

However, the content of this aid does not go beyond informal frameworks, have been set in Washington that clearly demonstrates the examples of other countries’ help to strengthen the defense of Ukraine. Thus, the Government of Canada on August 7, 2014 granted Ukraine 7000 helmets, 30,000 ballistic glasses, 2.3 thousand vests, 300 medical kits, 100 tents and 735 sleeping bags.

Also in August 14, 2014 Ukraine and Poland signed an agreement on humanitarian aid. This allowed one of the military parts of the Lviv region to receive 320 tons of humanitarian aid (food and bedding). By a similar scheme in December 2014 Poland gave for 3.5 million aid (255 tons) for one of the units of the Armed Forces, in particular this applies to food and items of equipment. Their aid to Ukraine also allocated Australia, Great Britain, Slovakia and Spain.

These examples clearly confirm the trend that prevailed on international assistance to Ukraine - often US aid became the trigger and signal for others, and exactly the US essentially defined the scope and nature of the aid.

New stage

In the background of election of the US new president Donald Trump the top priority was to keep the current level of support. This in conjunction with US accents begin to be understandable by American side as help to Ukraine in reforming the security sector itself and reducing stress on transmission of military equipment.

Exactly the MIC reform and development of the overall capacity of Ukrainian military formations are considered the USA as a basis for successful response to Russian aggression.

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Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work emphasized on such vision for cooperation with Ukraine during a meeting with Foreign Minister of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin on February 15, 2017.

At the same time as big donors like Canada or Great Britain, as shown in 2016, begin to make the main emphasis in helping Ukraine on military training and reduce the extent of support equipment and facilities, as it was in 2014-2015.

Not least due to the fact that the provision of logistical support was defined as a priority in the short term, and soon Ukraine’s industry will begin to meet the needs of both non-lethal and lethal weapons.

The US also underlines the fact that Ukraine has its own MIC, which can meet the needs of the Army, including modern weapons.

What should Ukraine do in this situation?

Against the background of the gradual shift of attention of international partners from providing significant logistical support to reforms in the military-industrial complex the priority should be the removal of informal export restrictions regarding foreign technologies that are necessary to create new models of weapons.

At the same time Ukraine should conduct a full assessment of the efficiency of provided international aid. This will give an opportunity to strengthen the confidence of international partners, which increases the chances of further necessary support.

In terms of material and technical assistance it’s also necessary to emphasize further receipt of non-lethal systems, which would enable to strengthen deterrence effect on the contact line (surveillance drones, radar system designed against multiple rocket launchers and long-range artillery systems).

Finally, special attention should be focused on promoting the plan, which was proposed by Philip Karber in February 2015 about the possibility of providing Ukraine with Soviet stockpiles of weapons and materials of Central and Eastern Europe in exchange for supplying the American weapons in these states.

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