The Committee on Appropriations of the House of Representatives of the United States Congress has proposed a bill cutting US military aid for Ukraine to $150 million, from the initial $300 million.
The money is proposed to be used to provide “assistance, including training; equipment; lethal weapons of a defensive nature; and intelligence support to the military and national security forces of Ukraine.”
A sum of $150 million is very significant for Ukraine’s military budget. For the first time, the funds could be used for advanced rearmament of the Ukraine military.
The legislation will be considered by the House of Representatives, and then it will be approved or rejected by US President Donald Trump.
“Despite the fact that the bill presumed a cut in US military assistance for Ukraine, US Congress wants to provide Kiev with lethal weapons. This is the key point. If the bill is passed the money must be allocated by September 30, the end of fiscal year 2017. This is a warning sign,” Russian journalist and political commentator Alexander Khrolenko wrote in a piece for Sputnik.
Previously, a bill on providing Ukraine with lethal weapons was already submitted to Congress, but the legislation was finally rejected.
Javelins for Ukraine?
The Committee emphasized that the funds cannot be spent on man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS). However, the money could be used to deliver over 900 FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.
The FGM-148 Javelin has been in service with the US military since 1996. It is designed for destroying heavy armored vehicles, fortified ground facilities and aerial targets (i.e., drones, helicopters) at low speeds and altitudes at a distance of 50-2,500 meters.
Possible shipments of Javelins to Ukraine have long been in discussions, taking into account the ongoing crisis in Donbass. Foreign experts say that Javelins could help the Ukrainian military turn the tide of war in Donbass.
At the same time, the FGM-148 is only one of a variety of lethal weapons potentially available for deliver to Ukraine. According to Khrolenko, the legislation would be more important as a political precedent.
There is a good reason why Congress has once again brought up the initiative of military assistance for Ukraine. During his presidency, Barack Obama managed to restrain attempts by Washington hawks to escalate the situation in Ukraine. Now, certain prominent hawks in Trump’s entourage are trying to get their own way.
“Pentagon chief Gen. James Mattis and national security adviser Gen. Herbert McMaster are known for a hardline stance towards Russia,” Khrolenko noted.
Moreover, during hearings in the Senate, Trump’s pick for the post of US State Secretary Rex Tillerson endorsed shipments of lethal weapons to Ukraine and said that Russia poses a “danger” to the US.
Trump’s nominee for director of national intelligence Dan Coats has also said that alongside China and North Korea, Russia is a big concern for Washington.
On February 15, US Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin. In particular, the sides discussed “US efforts to improve Ukraine’s internal defense capabilities.”
“Donald Trump’s future in such an entourage is becoming increasingly clear. There will be political struggle and an inevitable arms race,” the journalist suggested.
Rising Military Threats
According to Khrolenko, it is obvious that warmongering politicians and generals have a majority in Washington, and “Trump simply has no alternative.”
“Trump may signed a bill on lethal weapons for Ukraine. This will mark the beginning of a new phase of war in eastern Ukraine,” the article read.
According to Khrolenko, in the current environment Trump is simply unable to convert his electoral slogans into real decisions.
“Washington’s economic interests as well as the long-term strategy of enhanced deterrence will not let the 45th US President to change the military and political pillars of American dominance. This will inevitably result in raising global military threats,” the author concluded.