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Officials at the highest level continue to argue around the topic of armament for Ukraine. The new US defense budget, in terms of Ukraine, has not changed much. And an analysis of the history of providing American assistance to Ukraine in 2014-2017 makes us doubt that Washington will really supply us with modern and high-quality weapons.
So, on November 14, the House of Representatives of the US Congress approved the bill "National defense authorization act for fiscal year 2018", which provided military assistance to Ukraine within $ 350 million, including the supply of defensive weapons. On November 16 the Senate supported it in the same wording. Now, Donald Trump must sign the bill within ten days.
The total allocation for defense needs of the United States should amount to $ 700 billion, of which $ 4.6 billion was foreseen for Washington's counteraction to Russia in Europe.
It is noteworthy that over the past four years, the volume of military aid to Ukraine has grown every year. In 2014-2015, the States provided Kyiv with $ 260 million, in 2016 this amount increased to $ 300 million, and in 2017 - to $ 350 million.
In 2018, Kyiv expected that growth will continue. President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, arriving on an official visit to the United States on September 19, reported that the Senate had previously provided $ 500 million for Ukraine's support in the sphere of security and defense. After consideration of the bill by the House of Representatives, the Ukrainian part of the US defense budget remained at the level of 2017, but in some sense even decreased.
So, in 2017, the US Defense Department allocated $ 3.4 billion to "restrain Russia". Of these, the Congress authorized the Ministry of Defense to use 10.3% ($ 350 million) to support the defense capability of Ukraine. The budget for 2018 to counter Russia in Europe provides about 4.6 billion dollars, and Ukraine will be able to spend 7.6% ($ 350 million) of this budget.
In a positive aspect, we should note the inclusion of four new military assistance points to the defense budget in Ukraine. Among them, we see the strengthening of the Ukrainian naval forces by providing us with US air defense and coastal defense radar systems, sea mines and demining facilities, coastal vessels. For the first time, there is an opportunity for free treatment of Ukrainian soldiers in American medical institutions, as well as training of Ukrainian doctors.
Without any changes has been left financial and technical support in the development of an integrated system for monitoring the state border of Ukraine and assistance in training the staff officers and the high military command of the Armed Forces. In addition, the Pentagon, as before, is given the opportunity to supply Kyiv with defensive weapons (equipment for the Armed Forces, radars for detecting enemy artillery, unmanned aerial tactical surveillance systems, opportunities to counter electronic and cybernetic warfare, including lethal (anti-tank and small arms, mortars and ammunition).
But the law also provides some restrictions. Thus, the head of the US Department of Defense will be able to use, as agreed with the State Department, only half of the amount indicated. The second part will be available only after he assures Congress of the “carrying out institutional reforms in the defense sphere” by Ukrainian authorities.
In addition, the previously supplied US deliveries of non-modern non-lethal weapons, as well as ongoing disputes at the highest level regarding the advisability of provision of lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine, do not play in favor of the Ukrainian side.
So, in early 2015, the journalist of the Washington Post Thomas Gibbons-Neff in his article " On Ukraine’s front lines, U.S.-supplied equipment is falling apart" reported that "The United States has delivered more than $260 million in nonlethal military equipment to help the government of Ukraine in its fight against a Russian-backed insurgency, but some of the U.S.-supplied gear meant to protect and transport Ukrainian military forces is little more than junk." Gibbons-Neff argued that the US-supplied Humvees were manufactured, according to serial numbers on vehicles, in the 80-90s.
“Three of the Humvees had plastic doors and windows — barely any protection at all. The tires on one of the trucks blew apart after driving only a few hundred kilometers, the result of sitting in a warehouse too long, said one mechanic”, - he wrote.
In addition to Humvees, the maximum that Kyiv received from Americans recently is about 70 obsolete Raven unmanned aerial vehicles, 4 AN / TPQ-36 counterbattery radar systems and 10 AN / TPQ-49 systems. And this equipment is also not new, says Komsomolska Pravda in Ukraine. "Our military has already revealed that, for example, the American Raven drones are an outdated technique that does not allow them to perform their assigned tasks efficiently. These drones use an analog data signal that the enemy can easily intercept, mute and track the place of launch of the device," the newspaper writes.
With the supply of lethal weapons, things are even more complicated. Since the beginning of Russia's military aggression in the spring of 2014 Ukraine is negotiating with Western countries for the supply of lethal weapons, but so far unsuccessfully, although international support has been impressive.
In February 2016, the former commander of NATO forces in Europe, General Philip Breedlove made recommendations to the US government on providing Ukraine with lethal weapons. In May 2017, the same advice the new administration of the White House received from the former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. Special Representative of the US State Department Kurt Volker on July 25 in an interview with BBC said that Washington is actively considering the issue of the possible supply of weapons to Ukraine. On July 31 The Wall Street Journal wrote that the United States developed a plan for the supply of defensive weapons to Ukraine. It is about the transfer of anti-tank missile systems Javelin and air defense. On August 4 NBC News, citing sources, said that the Pentagon offered the White House to provide Ukraine with military assistance for $ 50 million, including anti-tank complexes Javelin.
Then, during the consideration of the defense law by the House of Representatives, the question of granting lethal weapons to Ukraine was again updated.
On November 10, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources in the White House, that the Trump’s administration allegedly authorized the supply of weapons to Ukraine, including portable Javelin anti-tank missile systems. At the same time, the edition specified that it is only a matter of principle agreement of the administration, and the specific terms of possible deliveries are not defined at the moment. And Washington can use arms deliveries as a signal to Moscow about its readiness to increase military support to Kyiv in the case of failure of Donbas conflict peaceful attempts, including through the involvement of a peacekeeping mission. Then the WSJ message was refuted by RIA Novosti referring to the representative of the White House, Michael Anthony.
On November 15, US State Department spokesman Wess Mitchell, being in Kyiv, also assured Ukrainians of Washington's intentions to continue consideration of possible options for the provision of lethal weapons to Ukraine. On November 16, a similar position was expressed by Republican senator Jim Inhofe. During the hearings at the Senate Armed Services Committee, he announced a possible change in US policy on the issue of providing Ukraine with defensive lethal weapons. At these hearings the senator was supported by the contender for the post of US Defense Secretary John Rood, who in his speech noted that "it is important to support Ukraine in the face of Russia's aggression ... it is important to send to President Putin and others the signal that we are ready to support Ukrainians in this matter". At the same time, The Washington Times published an article by former US ambassadors to Ukraine Steven Pifer and John Herbst calling on President Trump to abandon Obama's unsuccessful policy towards Ukraine and approve the provision of lethal military assistance. Last week, on November 17, ABC News reported that the US National Security Council would offer recommendations to President Trump on the financing and sale of anti-tank missiles to the Ukrainian government by allocating a grant package of $ 47 million to the government of Ukraine for the purchase of US military weapons, including Javelin powerful anti-tank missiles.
For all the above statements, it is peculiar that they are still heard from the mouths of American politicians, officials and diplomats who in reality are not empowered to make appropriate decisions, and their statements are either simple promises or are no more than recommendations for Trump. Therefore, we shouldn’t yet take them seriously.
But if we still assume that the latest recommendations of the US National Security Council will affect Trump and he agrees to allocate a $ 47 million grant to Kyiv, it is worthwhile to understand that the cost of a Javelin missile, when purchased by the US Defense Ministry, is at least 100 thousand dollars and the cost of the launcher is 130 thousand dollars. At such prices, Ukraine will be able to purchase an average of about 200 Javelins and 200 units of ammunition to it. Will this solve the problem of the military conflict in eastern Ukraine? I don’t think so. But, of course, the Americans will be able to send the right signal to President Putin.