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Recently, the former US ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer, who now works as a senior researcher at the Brookings Institution, said that most of the institutions of the American government support the provision of lethal weapons to the Ukrainian army. In his view, the idea is supported by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, his deputy - General Paul Selva, the European command of the US Armed Forces, as well as the Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis. Pifer hopes that US President Donald Trump will allow providing Ukraine lethal weapons and will not continue his predecessor's policy on this issue. According to the ABC News, US National Security Adviser Herbert McMaster received three options for giving Ukraine a grant of $ 47 million to purchase defensive weapons to deter Russian aggression. This news was spreaded by Ukrainian media. The topic of providing lethal weapons to Ukraine from time to time has been exaggerated in US government circles since 2014, but it never reached the point. Then why journalists rise it now?
Expediency of American weapons
In the United States, there are enough supporters of providing lethal weapons to Ukraine. During his stay in Ukraine on Independence Day, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis supported the provision of defensive weapons to Ukraine and promised to inform the President and Secretary of State about his vision of this issue. Special Representative of the US State Department on Ukraine Kurt Volker is convinced that giving Ukraine defensive weapons is necessary to counteract Russia's aggression. US State Department spokesman Heather Nauert stressed that the US does not rule out such an opportunity, but so far no relevant decisions have been taken. Senators Republicans John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Kelly Ayotte spoke out in favor of giving lethal weapons to Ukraine. Senator McCain, head of the Armed Services Committee, believes that the president should provide Ukraine with lethal weapons to force Russia to withdraw its troops from our territory.
When it comes to American weapons, people usually mean air defense and anti-tank systems, including the FGM-148 Javelin, capable of hitting the enemy's armored vehicles with high accuracy. Senator Kelly Ayotte also offered to provide Ukraine with small arms, grenade launchers, armored vehicles, bulletproof vests, explosives and demining facilities in 2014. However, the United States limited itself to providing Ukraine with non-lethal military assistance. Since 2015, the United States has supplied to Ukraine various equipment worth $ 750 million, including vehicles - Hummer jeeps, bulletproof vests, thermal imagers, medical and engineering equipment, portable radios, anti-submarine radars, patrol boats. The need for American weapons in the Ukrainian army was obvious in the midst of active military operations in Donbas in 2014, when Ukrainian volunteers and soldiers relied on volunteer assistance when they fought heavy battles against Russian army in the Donetsk airport, Slovyansk, Debaltseve, Ilovaysk.
At the moment, there is no vital need for American lethal weapons. During the three years of war, the situation in Donbas conflict zone has changed. There is a positional war now in Donbas. Basically, the sides of the conflict shell each other's positions using artillery and mortars, small arms. Ukrainian warriors most often die from mines and shells of the enemy. From 2013 to 2017, the number of Ukrainian army increased from 168.2 thousand people up to 240 thousand personnel. Over the past three years, the number of contract serviceman has increased 10 times. Enough Ukrainians with experience of military operations continue to serve in the army. From 2013 to 2017 years, the defense budget of Ukraine increased from UAH 15.1 billion to UAH 129 billion (about 5% of GDP, although the Armed Forces receive only about 80 billion UAH from this sum). The military conflict with Russia gave impetus to the development of the defense-industrial complex of Ukraine, to the increase and modernization of the armored vehicles. As of the beginning of 2014, there were 1110 tanks in the Ukrainian Armed Forces (mostly T-64 and T-64BM Bulat), while 1397 tanks were in storage. As of July 2017, Ukroboronprom enterprises transferred 15903 units of weapons and military equipment to the Ukrainian Army, including 3690 units of new, repaired, rebuilt armored vehicles, self-propelled artillery and special equipment, 4052 units of rocket and artillery weapons, 333 units of aircraft, a significant amount of ammunition. The lightweight portable missile system Korsar, which is considered a domestic alternative to the American Javelin, was also adopted by the armed forces.
In an interview with FOX Business, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stressed that his American counterpart Donald Trump had pledged to provide Ukraine with military and technical assistance in the conflict with Russia. However, assistance can take many forms, including financial aid. The draft defense budget of the United States contains a provision on allocation of $ 500 million for Ukraine to fight pro-Russian separatists. This money can be spent on further development and improvement of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. A significant part of the lethal weapons, which the Ukrainian army needs to deter Russia, can be produced by domestic enterprises of the military-industrial complex.
White House is preparing the Kremlin for a meeting in Belgrade
Most likely, Steven Pifer's rhetoric about the provision of lethal weapons to Ukraine has a political overtones. The former American ambassador raised this issue on the eve of a regular meeting between US State Department Special Representative for Ukraine Kurt Volker and Russian presidential aide Vladislav Surkov in Belgrade (Serbia) on the settlement of the conflict in Donbas on November 13. Volker expects to obtain from the Russian side an agreement to deploy an international peacekeeping contingent on the territory of entire conflict zone, and not just on the contact line. Perhaps Volker will have to insist that the Russian Federation should not even expect to include its military in the number of peacekeepers. American diplomat understands that Russia is a party to an armed conflict with Ukraine and cannot carry out peacekeeping functions.
The statement of Pifer, who is known both in Ukraine and in Russia, reinforces Volker's position in the forthcoming talks with Surkov. Washington at an unofficial level makes it clear to Moscow that if it continues to balk on the Ukrainian issue, then the United States can indeed begin to supply arms to Ukraine. This is a sign of the US willingness to stand by Ukraine and provide military support in the event of Russia resuming active hostilities in Donbas and attempts to change the front line. The White House prepares the Kremlin in advance for negotiations in Belgrade, raises rates and creates an excuse for bargaining, if necessary.
The interests of American industrialists
Raising the question of the supply of lethal weapons to Ukraine, American politicians can lobby for the interests of industrialists who are interested in getting orders from the government. The US Congress is dominated by the Republican Party, which defends the interests of military and arms manufacturers. Apparently, the proposed grant of $ 47 million for the purchase of defensive weapons for Ukraine is planned to invest in the production of expensive military units. The main thing is that American industrialists will make a profit. Does Ukraine need this weapon or not, they do not care. Manufacture of Javelin is carried out by American companies Raytheon, Lockheed Martin. The cost of one complex is approximately 246 thousand dollars, cost of rockets - 80 thousand dollars. In 1996-2014, American industrialists produced 40,000 "Javelin" complexes for the armed forces of 19 countries, including the post-Soviet republics (Lithuania, Estonia). In 2013, a contract worth $ 176 million was signed to produce 842 missiles and 120 complexes. Air defense means are produced by Raytheon, Hughes, RCA (Patriot modifications), GeneralDynamics (LAV-AD), Boeing Aerospace Company, General Electric (Avenger weapon based on the Hammer jeep).
To some extent, Ukraine can be viewed by the US as a potential market for obsolete weapons. One of the priorities of Republican administration is to re-equip the American army. According to Senator John McCain, the draft US budget for 2018 is aimed at restoring the US military after six years of funding cuts. In June, it was planned to allocate $ 640 billion to the Pentagon's needs. Money from the "Ukrainian grant" could be invested in withdrawing obsolete weapons and equipment from the arsenal, with subsequent delivery and transfer to Ukraine under the pretext of helping to deter Russian aggression and strengthen security in Europe. Americans have already discovered the Ukrainian market of used vehicles when they provided Ukraine with more than two hundred used Hummers.
The White House can wait with a grant for the purchase of defensive weapons for Ukraine because of concern that US military assistance may be in the whirlpool of corruption schemes. According to the American journalist and former military Nolan Peterson, corruption undermines Ukraine's military-industrial complex and the money allocated for the development of the military-industrial complex is ineffective. In October, NABU detained Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Igor Pavlovsky, who is suspected of embezzling 149 million UAH in the purchase of diesel fuel in 2016. Public attention is focused on the scandal around Avakov’s backpacks. According to NABU, former Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Serhiy Chebotar and son of the Minister of Interior Olexander Avakov in 2015 were involved in the purchase of backpacks at inflated prices. Backpacks were not delivered on time and did not meet the requirements of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. This caused losses in the amount of UAH 14 million. The United States calculates all possible risks before making a final decision, whether to provide lethal weapons to Ukraine or not.