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The President Petro Poroshenko underlines on his Twitter page that for the first time in the last ten years, the head of the US defense department visited Ukraine. Will this be a herald of a shift in the issue of lethal weapons supply to our country, expected for three years already, or will it be another step in the current diplomatic struggle? This question remains open.
On August 18, the press service of the US Department of Defense reported on the visit of head of the Office James Mattis in Kyiv in the framework of a five-day trip to the countries of the Middle East and Europe. The minister will visit Jordan, Turkey, and Ukraine will be the final stage of the working trip, and the visit was planned to take place on Independence Day of Ukraine, on August 24.
In the world of diplomacy, such coincidences are usually treated as a symbolic act, a sign of special support for the country to which the visit is planned.
However, Ukraine traditionally expects a more tangible result from such support, to be precise, of the supply of lethal weapons, which is still not available.
Occasional talks about the delivery of 1200 anti-tank rockets "Javelin" to Ukraine disappear later, and from equipment that can be used at the frontline, Ukraine received 6 US AN / TPQ-36 radar systems with a target detection range up to 24 kilometers, which allows detecting heavy artillery, 10 AN / TPQ-49 radar systems capable of detecting mortar batteries at a distance of 5-10 kilometers, as well as several hundred Humvee cars, only a few dozen of which were armored, the rest were modernized already in Ukraine.
Against the backdrop of Egypt's annual aid of $ 1.3 billion, Pakistan's $ 900 million, not to mention Israel (an average of $ 3.8 billion a year over the past 10 years) it is a drop in the bucket.
However, Ukraine does not have the status of a strategic ally of the United States, despite the desire and words of Ukrainian politicians. Nevertheless, talks about military assistance to Ukraine from the US were actively intensified.
Already in the course of the Pentagon's press service announcement about Mattis' future visit to Kyiv, it was reported that meetings with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak were planned.
"During the talks, the minister will assure our Ukrainian partners that the US remains firmly committed to restoring Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, as well as strengthening the strategic defense partnership between the two countries," the report said.
In a word, there was a feeling that it would really be about something important, and what could be more important than a positive solution to the question of the supply of lethal weapons in the context of strategic defense partnership with Ukraine?
In addition, the statement of the head of the US Senate Arms Committee John McCain from 24 August, published on his official website, also activated the interest.
The senator called the Russian Federation "a greater threat than the Islamic State "and called on the President of the United States, Donald Trump, to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons.
Meanwhile, in Kyiv after the military parade, President Petro Poroshenko and US Secretary of Defense James Mattis held a meeting, without press. But at the subsequent briefing of the party, without saying anything concrete, nevertheless, parties showed that negotiations on the provision of lethal weapons, perhaps, changed something in this issue.
"We really, even during my visit (in the United States, - Ed.), agreed that we will have a very active dialogue on ensuring Ukraine's defense capabilities. This concerns not only and not so much the supply of lethal weapons, but also the provision and increasing the defensive capabilities (of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, - Ed.), including the means of electronic warfare, means that increase the effectiveness of our Armed Forces in the defense sphere, " Petro Poroshenko said.
However, the head of state did not disclose details of the talks, only noted that the conversation was fruitful, and also stressed that "discussion of such issues before making a final decision requires silence," but as president of Ukraine he is pleased with the negotiations and discussion.
In turn, Mattis stressed that the international community should continue to exert diplomatic pressure on Russia to compel it to implement the Minsk agreements. The US and its allies will adhere to this.
Concerning the possibility of delivering lethal weapons to Ukraine, Mattis said that after returning to the United States he intends to recommend "concrete things" to the American leadership about the provision of lethal weapons to Ukraine, but so far all talks are confidential.
Confidential talks, however, openly takes place in the capital of the state on Independence Day, and the head of state himself participates in the negotiations. It's not very similar to the desire to keep the talks, if not secret, at least not attracting unnecessary attention.
Rather, such a tactic is good for attracting attention: it's common for such things in diplomacy, as a bluff to exert psychological pressure on the enemy, the same pressure that the US Secretary of Defense announced the day before.
According to James Mattis, it becomes quite clear that the US will fight with Russia diplomatically, while the provision of lethal weapons is more a military and political step than a diplomatic one.
But attempts to press on Russia through the promise of providing such assistance to Ukraine are fully correlated with diplomatic pressure - not to provide lethal weapons, but to threaten to provide it, thus creating a constant tension. That may be the real goal of US diplomacy, in which Ukraine can be given the role of a pawn in a diplomatic game that does not know about the ultimate goal, or the junior partner in trying to pressure Russia.
Judging by the reaction of the "leader" of the self-proclaimed DNR Alexander Zakharchenko, who said that the possible supplies of American weapons to Kyiv will lead to an escalation of the conflict in Donbas, the meeting between Poroshenko and Mattis worries the parties concerned, and a positive decision on the supply of lethal weapons is not a thing of their interest.
But why can it happen that Ukraine, obviously in need of armament, will not receive it, as it did not receive it in previous three years?
One of the reasons was the high level of corruption, but, I think, this is not the main thing.
Indeed, taking 135th place in the Transparency International rating for 2016, losing 18 positions to Pakistan, which receives 900 million dollars from the United States – but at the same time Ukraine is 31 position ahead of Iraq, which receives hundreds of millions of dollars.
True, the latter conducts military operations against terrorists, but Ukraine also fights. But simply it is not a strategic ally of the United States.
The second reason explaining the possible non-receipt of lethal weapons by Ukraine may be a banal course of saving financial resources for military assistance to other countries, which is clearly taken by the US in 2017.
So, out of 900 million dollars of military aid to Pakistan in 2016, the US wants to freeze 350 million because of insufficient efforts of this country to fight the terrorist "Haqqani Network". This is clearly reported in a statement of Pentagon spokesman Adam Stamp.
290 million dollars out of 1.3 billion will be lost by Egypt due to the situation with respect for human rights.
One can, of course, assume that these funds were saved to help Ukraine, but such things are usually done for strategic allies, and such measures do not apply for our country.