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Friday, April 12, 2024

US helms vital arms supply effort to keep Ukraine fighting

Washington was able to quickly forge an international coalition to back Ukraine after Russia invaded in February 2022, providing tens of billions of dollars in military aid, training Kyiv's troops and imposing punishing sanctions on Moscow.

In successfully spearheading the push for international support for Ukraine, the United States cast off the go-it-alone ethos of Donald Trump’s presidency and helped Kyiv to withstand Russia’s onslaught.

Washington was able to quickly forge an international coalition to back Ukraine after Russia invaded in February 2022, providing tens of billions of dollars in military aid, training Kyiv’s troops and imposing punishing sanctions on Moscow.

“Without US support, and then… the broader European and global support, the Ukrainians would have collapsed,” said Mark Cancian, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“The support is absolutely vital. And continuing that support is absolutely vital,” he said.

International assistance from dozens of countries has been coordinated through the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, which first met in late April last year.

The meetings allow Ukrainian officials and military leaders to “update ministers on current battlefield dynamics and Ukrainian requirements so the international community can identify and provide Ukraine with the capabilities needed,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia Laura Cooper told AFP.

Read more: Russia takes over Ukraine’s power grid in east

– $45 billion in aid –

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been the main driver behind the group, with meetings held on a near-monthly basis “to intensify our efforts and coordinate our assistance and focus on winning today’s fight and the struggles to come,” Cooper said.

Ukraine’s supporters are also training its soldiers — an effort coordinated separately through the Security Assistance Group-Ukraine organization — with US forces starting a program focused on larger-scale maneuvers last month in addition to instruction on specific weapons systems.

And the United States and other countries have imposed tough sanctions on Russia, with targets including financial institutions, technology imports and energy exports.

Stephen Sestanovich, a senior fellow for Russian and Eurasian studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, said US efforts to rally international support for Ukraine show a “fundamental” difference with Trump’s presidency.

Many in Trump’s administration “disliked transatlantic institutions, processes and leaders. Trump’s decision-making was always chaotic but forging a common policy on Ukraine with the EU and the rest of NATO would have been extremely difficult,” Sestanovich said.

Read more: France did not reject military assistance to Ukraine

Aid for Ukraine has covered almost all types of military equipment, from uniforms, small arms and ammunition to artillery rocket systems, air defenses and armored vehicles.

Kyiv has pushed for some items that its international supporters have been reluctant to provide, including Patriot air defense systems and advanced heavy tanks — which were eventually promised — and others such as long-range missiles and fighter aircraft, which have not been so far.

Total security assistance from the United States and other countries amounts to at least $45 billion since Russia’s invasion, Cooper said.