The US Embassy in Kyiv has announced that a shipment of US military aid for the Ukrainian armed forces has arrived in Ukraine on the 16 June. The equipment delivered to the embassy’s Office of Defense Cooperation included radios, ammunition and Javelin anti-tank guided missiles, with the total value of the shipment estimated to be in excess of $60 million.
The announcement was made via the social media channels of the embassy, with an accompanying statement highlighting the continuation of US-Ukraine security assistance and cooperation efforts during the coronavirus pandemic, adding that “the United States stands strongly with Ukraine in support of its sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russian aggression.”
The delivery of the aid comes after the announcement of the US Department of Defense’s plans for Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative funding for fiscal year 2020. $250 million has been allocated for “additional training, equipment, and advisory efforts to strengthen Ukraine’s capacity to more effectively defend itself against Russian aggression”.
$125 million, or half of the funding to be given under the plans, is contingent on the Ukrainian government’s progress on defense reforms. In a press release announcing the plans, the embassy emphasized reform efforts made by the Ukrainian government in the past year in a variety of fields, including strengthened civilian control of the military, reform of military command and control structures, transition to a human resources management system based on that of Western militaries, measures taken to drive competitiveness and transparency in military procurement and military industry as well as tightened internal controls to reduce corruption.
Additionally, NATO recognized Ukraine as an Enhanced Opportunities Partner on 12 June. The new status grants Ukraine “enhanced access to interoperability programmes and exercises, and more sharing of information, including lessons learned.” Ukraine is one of six Enhanced Opportunities Partners, the other partners being Australia, Jordan, Sweden, Finland and Georgia.
While NATO has stated that Ukraine’s new status “does not prejudge any decisions on NATO membership”, the US Permanent Envoy to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, has expressed hope that Ukraine will be able to join NATO “when the time is right“.
Ukrainian public opinion has swayed in favor of NATO membership since the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the following War in Donbass. However, the current “frozen conflict” in Donbass complicates NATO membership owing to Article 5 provisions, similar to the Georgian situation with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. While the Heritage Foundation has made a proposal to Georgia to expedite NATO membership by excluding the occupied territories from Article 5 guarantees, neither country has adopted the proposal, nor has NATO endorsed it.