U.S. Army Europe Lt. Ben Hodges indicated on Wednesday that the United States would start training the National Guard of Ukraine this spring. The U.S. will also be providing support via military supplies like armored pickups, vans, and the new prototype of the “Kozak” that arrived in Kiev on Monday. This equipment will be vital in securing the lengthy border between Ukraine and Russia that currently remains in large part unpatrolled.
This sudden show of support from President Obama will be funded through the congressionally passed Global Security Contingency Fund (GSCF). This fund was proposed prior to the 2015 U.S. fiscal budge and will finance the training requested by the Ukrainian government in the spring. Former assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, Derek Chollet, has made it clear that henceforth the U.S. is “open” to aiding Ukraine and the training of their National Guard is only the “first step.”
The city L’viv, about 40 miles from Poland border, is being considered for the location of the training. The U.S. has estimated the cost of the training at $19 million. The Kozak, like with the pick-ups and vans, is armored, however, the Kozak also has a chassis built by an Italian company named Iveco, which has the unique characteristic of a V-shaped armored hull that is highly resistant to roadside bombs and hidden mines. This vehicle rings in at the tune of $189,000.
According to the U.N Human Rights office 5,000 people have died in this conflict with 262 of those happening over the last nine days. In a somewhat conflicting statement Russian President Vladimir Putin has blamed the Ukraine nation’s “criminal orders” for the latest surge of violence. Putin seems to reflect the seemingly detached reality of his people. As revealed by opinion polls, the average Russian has a sense of “triumph.” They believe that Russia is a super power and that it is the west that is in a state of retreat.
If this mentality is further explored it is seen that Putin and the Krimlin might have felt betrayed by the U.S. and NATO. Apparently, following the Cold War the NATO alliance may have promised not to move east, a promise it did not keep according to Putin. In addition to not holding up to its end of the negotiations, Putin contends that the “EU project” failed as a whole revealing the European Union (EU) to be much less stable than it boasts.
The accusation that either side has “criminal orders” acting out on its behalf is not new. It is also an issue that will be very soon addressed by U.S. troops. Another concern for U.S. policy makers is what the future of this conflict holds in store for all involved. It has been referenced that these aggressions have been simmering since the Cold War and this is actually the same battle still being fought. Germany has been hesitant in engaging fully with the conflict, which can be understood due to Putin’s and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s relatively “friendly” relationship.
The initiative shown by the U.S. in committing to training soldiers of the Ukraine this spring demonstrates an ongoing effort to secure peace in war-ridden areas. Chollet explained this recently saying that some were “worried about the future of the trans-Atlantic relationships” and that “the events of the last year with Russia and Ukraine has focused people again on the threats to European security and the unfinished business, really, still coming out of the end of the Cold War.”
By Joel Wickwire