- The Washington Times - Friday, August 1, 2014

The Pentagon has notified Congress of a plan to increase the amount of money that it is spending on bolstering the defense capabilities of the Ukrainian military, with the majority of that funding going toward equipping and training its national guard troops to conduct various missions.

Pentagon and State Department officials are asking lawmakers to approve $19 million so that they can continue assisting the Ukrainians with building their capacity for internal defense, according to Pentagon officials. That funding would mostly be spent on training the Ukrainian National Guard in western Ukraine, at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center in Yavoriv, the officials said.

To date, the U.S. government has committed $23 million to helping Ukraine’s armed forces and border guards sustain operations. That money has been spent on radios, body armor, individual first aid kits, sleeping mats, neck gaiters, jackets and, most recently, explosive ordinance disposal robots.

The robots were sent to Ukraine within the past few weeks, according to Pentagon officials. The delivery comes just a the country’s bitter battle with Russian-backed separatists has spilled into concentrated urban settings.

Steve Ganyard, National Security analyst and president of Avascent International, said he was baffled by the delivery of the robots to Ukraine. The former deputy assistant secretary of state for plans, programs and operations in the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs said he was unsure how the robots would be useful in a conventional warfare battlefield.

“I don’t see any sort of indication that it’s an [improvised explosive device] kind of situation,” he said. “They’re fighting more conventionally than you would expect rebels to do, but that’s because they are conventional. The Russian army trained them and is supplying them and probably are supplying some troops.”

The new level of support simply indicates that the United States “is desperately looking to be able to provide the Ukrainians with something” useful and not too sensitive, Mr. Ganyard said. That way, if the equipment is confiscated by the Russians, the Ukrainians will not be giving its adversary a military advantage, he said.

Meanwhile, lawmakers continue to argue that the increased violence near the eastern border Ukraine warrants lethal assistance.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte said Tuesday that the Obama administration is not doing enough to leverage Ukraine standing in the ongoing skirmish with Russia. The administration needs to provide the military and the lethal support that the Ukrainian military has requested so that they can battle back the Russians, the New Hampshire Republican said.

Other prominent legislative leaders such as Sen. John McCain have also advocated on behalf of arming Ukraine. In a radio interview with Phoenix-based station KFYI, the Arizona Republican blasted the Obama administration for failing to arm the country's tenuous military.

“It’s a cowardly act on our part not to give the Ukrainians any defensive weapons,” he said. “They’ve been begging us for weapons with which to defend themselves, where perhaps they could have defeated these separatists.”