- The Washington Times - Friday, July 20, 2018

The Defense Department approved a $200 million military aid package to Ukrainian forces on Friday, bringing the total amount of American weapons and equipment sent to support Kiev’s fight against Russian-backed separatists in the country to $1 billion.

The military support package will include new “capabilities to enhance Ukraine’s command and control, situational awareness systems, secure communications, military mobility, night vision, and military medical treatment,” according to a Pentagon statement.

Pentagon officials have also agreed to provide “cooperation funds for additional training, equipment and advisory efforts to build the defensive capacity of Ukraine’s forces,” as part of the effort, the statement says.

While U.S. military officials have yet to determine a firm delivery date for the assets associated with the latest military aid package, the Pentagon’s commitment of the funds and equipment under Friday’s deal “reaffirms the long-standing defense relationship between the United States and Ukraine.”

News of the new aid package comes days after a controversial summit between the Trump administration and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. Russian-backed forces have been battling Ukrainian troops for the last four years, after a 2014 incursion by Moscow into the eastern European country, annexing Crimea from Ukraine in a widely-disputed referendum vote.

Washington has long been opposed to Russia’s aggressive actions in Ukraine, which sparked fears of further military action by Moscow in other Baltic nations.

In May, Washington quietly completed the transfer of lethal new anti-tank missile systems to Ukraine, infuriating the Kremlin and signaling a possible escalation in the Ukrainian conflict.

Initial deliveries of the FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile, the shoulder-fired weapon equipped with a so-called “fire and forget” guided missile system designed for U.S. Army infantry units, were delivered to Ukrainian units that month, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko confirmed at the time.

The move falls in line with the Trump administration’s ongoing effort to increase foreign sales of American military hardware to allies across the globe. The sale, including the small contingent of American trainers tasked to the Ukrainian military as part of the deal, risks putting Washington deeper at odds with Moscow.

Moscow has officially remained mum on reports of the weapons deliveries but has vehemently opposed the U.S. sale of the advanced anti-tank weapon system to Ukrainian forces, since officials in the Trump administration floated the idea in December — weeks after winning the White House in the 2016 elections.

Earlier this week, acting Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Tina Kaidanow lambasted Moscow over claims made on Russian state media outlets that a large number of the U.S. anti-tank missiles sent to Ukrainian forces were defective.

“We do not provide anyone with defective Javelins, frankly,” she told reporters Monday, adding such reports represented “propaganda of the worst kind.”

• Carlo Muñoz can be reached at cmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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