PHOTO: Paratroopers from the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne) board a C-130J Super Hercules at Aviano Air Base, Italy to be transported to Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania.
The Defense Department is working with the State Department and NATO allies to provide reassurance, deterrence and support to Ukraine, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today.
The U.S. government’s response to Russia’s actions in the region is being done carefully and without taking actions that would escalate the crisis, Evelyn N. Farkas said.
“Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, followed by blatant and unconcealed efforts to eastern and southern Ukraine, signifies a paradigm shift in our relations with Russia,” she said. “Despite Russia’s efforts to portray the situation otherwise, this crisis is entirely one of its choosing. These actions represent a wholesale rejection of the idea of a Europe whole, free and at peace.”
Farkas listed the DOD contributions to Ukraine. Soon after Russia moved into Crimea, the department delivered 329,000 packaged meals to support forces in the field. DOD also has sent uniforms, medical supplies and other nonlethal equipment to Ukrainian armed forces and border guards.
All told, this adds up to about $18 million of aid to date, she said. “Looking ahead,” she added, “we will use all available tools to provide meaningful cost-effective support to Ukraine’s security institutions.”
DOD officials also continue to engage with their Ukrainian counterparts, Farkas said, noting that a high-level meeting is scheduled next month.
The United States has also taken prompt and high-profile steps to reassure NATO allies in light of Russian activity in Ukraine, Farkas said. These include a stepped up maritime presence in the Black Sea and the deployment of additional combat aircraft to the Baltic republics and to Poland.
“Last week, 600 paratroopers arrived in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to begin exercises requested by those nations,” she said. “These exercises are the first in a series of activities that will take place over the next few months and beyond.”
The United States is also taking steps to support non-NATO partners – such as Moldova and Georgia – that feel threatened by Russia’s actions, she said.
And the United States is not alone, Farkas told the panel.
“Since the start of this crisis, our NATO allies have acted with resolve. As we approach the NATO summit in Wales this fall, we will continue to urge all NATO allies to increase support to these reassurance measures, including by bolstering their individual commitments to allied security by robust defense investment.”
These measures represent a clear eastward shift of allied forces, she said, specifically intended to counter Russia’s aggressive actions.
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service