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Weapons Supply for Ukraine Remains Unclear After Pentagon Head's Visit
24 August, 2017

Following a meeting with Ukraine’s President on Thursday, United States Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, announced the allocation of $175 million in defense equipment for Ukraine. He also stated that the U.S. is considering the issue of providing Ukraine with defensive lethal weapons.

The U.S. Defense Secretary met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Thursday in a visit timed to coincide with Ukraine’s Independence Day. Secretary Mattis also met with Ukraine’s Defense Minister, Stepan Poltorak.

Photo credit: EPA.com

“Have no doubt that the United States also stands with Ukraine in all things, we support you in the face of threats to sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Secretary Mattis said during a press briefing following his meeting with President Poroshenko in Kyiv. “We do not, and we will not, accept Russia’s seizure of the Crimea and, despite Russia’s denials, we know they are seeking to redraw international borders by force, undermining the sovereign and free nations of Europe.”

In addition, Secretary Mattis announced plans to expand cooperation with Kyiv in the field of defense, and added that the United States expects the full implementation of NATO standards.

“We continue to support Ukraine and remain committed to building the capacity of your armed forces to defend their country and to defend the Ukrainian people,” he said. “We applaud Ukraine’s commitment to reform and to modernise its defense sectors according to NATO standards.”

READ MORE: Pentagon Head's Rare Visit to Ukraine, Explained

In turn, President Poroshenko stated that he was pleased with the outcome of negotiations on lethal weapons, but did not provide further comment on this question.

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“We discussed all aspects of our cooperation with the United States, including providing Ukraine with advanced defense capabilities, and military and technical cooperation.” the President told reporters. “This applies not only to the supply of lethal weapons but also to the provision and increase of defense capabilities, including means of electronic warfare that increase the effectiveness of our defense forces’ actions in the field of defense. With regards to our discussion, I, as President of Ukraine, am pleased.”

According to President Poroshenko, he and Secretary Mattis also discussed the possibility of international presence in the Donbas, including “the possible deployment of peacekeeping organizations within the mandate of the UN Security Council in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.”

Regarding the implementation of the Minsk agreements, the Ukrainian President expressed his hopes for Russia’s cooperation. “If Moscow does not want to miss the opportunity to implement the agreements reached once again, I am sure that Moscow will follow the logic of all participants in the Normandy format,” he said.

Earlier in the day, U.S. Defense Secretary Mattis joined two hundred servicemen from NATO countries and four thousand Ukrainian soldiers in a military parade in downtown Kyiv to mark the 26th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence.

READ MORE: NATO Troops March in Kyiv at Independence Parade

Prior to his arrival in Kyiv, Secretary Mattis stated that his visit was intended to commemorate Ukraine’s Independence day and express support for the building of Ukrainian democracy in the face of Russia violating the country’s territorial integrity.

Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense also issued a statement, noting that Secretary Mattis and Ukraine’s Defense Minister, Stepan Poltorak, intended to discuss “the current security situation in Ukraine and in the world, actual issues of the reforms taking place in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, as well as areas of further cooperation between the defense departments.”

On August 21, President Poroshenko underscored the importance of the impending visit from Secretary Mattis, as well. “James Mattis is a great friend of Ukraine and I am sure that these negotiations will be extremely important for strengthening the defense capability of our state,” he said.

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Secretary Mattis’ visit is the third meeting that has taken place between high level officials from Ukraine and the United States in recent months.

On July 9, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited Kyiv to meet with Ukrainian President Poroshenko and anti-corruption activists.

Earlier, on June 20, President Poroshenko visited the United States to get acquainted with the new administration and had a 30 minute working meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump. Secretary Mattis referred to this meeting between two the presidents during his press briefing, as a sign of strong U.S.-Ukrainian relations.

“The United States and Ukraine are cultivating a lasting strategic partnership, already 25 years in the making, built on common security interests and shared principles,” Secretary Mattis said. “I look forward to continuing to build on that partnership.”

/Written by Eilish Hart