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US approves military assistance to Ukraine after Trump-Putin summit

Ukraine’s government says its military will meet NATO standards by or during the year 2020.

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On July 20, the US Defense Department announced in a statement that it will provide $200 million to Ukraine in security-cooperation funds earmarked for additional training, equipment, and advisory efforts to build the defensive capacity of its armed forces.

The funds are intended to enhance Ukraine’s command-and-control and situational-awareness systems, secure communications, military mobility, night-vision capabilities, and military medical treatment. “This reaffirms the long-standing defense relationship between the United States and Ukraine,” the statement noted.

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The package includes equipment to support ongoing training programs and operational needs, including counter-artillery and counter-mortar radars, high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicles, night-vision devices, electronic warfare detection, secure communications, and medical equipment. The total of US security-sector assistance to Ukraine since 2014 will now top $1 billion in aid.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the founder the Senate Ukraine Caucus, hailed the announcement, which he called “a clear message that America stands with the Ukrainian people in their struggle … against Russian aggression,” as he put it.

In March, the State Department cleared a $47-million sale of FGM-148 Javelin portable anti-tank missiles to Ukraine.  The package specified 210 missiles and 37 launchers. Ukrainian personnel have been training with the new weapons since May.

Sending US military on an advice and training mission is tantamount to indirect involvement in Ukraine’s internal conflict. Hundreds of US and Canadian military instructors have been training Ukrainian personnel at the Yavorov firing range since 2015. The US Navy operates a facility in Ochakov.

In June, Ukraine’s parliament approved the law “On Amending Certain Legislative Acts of Ukraine (on the Direction of Ukraine’s Foreign Policy),” which set NATO membership as Ukraine’s foreign-policy goal, replacing the country’s non-aligned status. With the economy in pitiful shape, Ukraine’s defense expenditures already greatly exceed  2% of its GDP. Very few NATO members spend such a share of their GDP on military needs, despite the pledges they have made at summits.

Ukraine’s government says its military will meet NATO standards by or during the year 2020. But allocating a large percentage of GDP to military needs and getting bang for one’s buck are two different things. Natan Chazin, a former advisor to the chief of the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces, believes the military reforms have gone nowhere.

According to a sensational story in the New York Times, corruption is widespread in the ranks of Ukraine’s military. If so, who can guarantee that the US-supplied weapons would not fall into the wrong hands and be used against the US military somewhere outside of Europe?

The US 2018 fiscal year (FY) defense budget allocates $350 million for security assistance to Kiev. In the draft budget for FY 2019, Ukraine is included in the list of countries to be granted security assistance under the State Department’s Foreign Military Financing program.

The sum of $200 million was allocated months ago as part of the defense budget, but was kept on hold pending “a series of defense reforms” Washington was demanding from Kiev. The passage of Ukraine’s new national security law, signed by the Ukrainian president on July 5, met the requirements enshrined in the US legislation, thereby allowing the Pentagon to release the funds.

The Law on National Security provides a legislative framework for aligning Ukraine’s national security architecture with Euro-Atlantic principles. It is perceived as a major step toward achieving NATO interoperability.

The timing has a symbolic impact.  US President Donald Trump has come under harsh criticism for the remarks he made during a joint press conference after the summit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16.  The announcement on military aid to Ukraine came on the same day the White House rejected a proposal from Russia to hold a referendum in eastern Ukraine on the fate of the region.

The possibility was raised by Vladimir Putin during the talks. Addressing Russian diplomats on July 19, President Putin said that any country pushing Ukraine or Georgia into the NATO fold “should think of the possible consequences of this irresponsible policy” because Russia would “respond in kind to any aggressive steps that directly threaten Russia.” Indeed, why should the US provide lethal weapons and training to a neighbor of Russia, not to mention its military presence in Ochakov? Russia has not sent weapons to any neighbors of the US, nor does it have a military presence near America’s borders.

Military cooperation between the US and Ukraine is a multilateral process that is moving forward. A US-Ukraine cyber-security bill has passed in the House.

So, cooperation in various areas is thriving, despite human-rights violations in Ukraine. This fact has been confirmed by a report from the State Department. The corruption in Ukraine is an internationally acknowledged problem. Popular protests are commonplace, despite the fact that the conflict in the Donbass is being used to distract the public from their domestic woes.

Many in the West are frustrated with the way Kiev is implementing reforms and with the political influence of the oligarchs.  A study by the prestigious Brookings Institute has confirmed the fact that the reforms in Ukraine have foundered. The country’s politicians are embracing extremist rhetoric.

But a blind eye is being turned to all of this, as Kiev grows obsequious and ready to comply with instructions from Washington. In late June, the Ukrainian government made a decision to buy American coal from Pennsylvania, which is said to be almost twice as expensive as what is locally sourced in the Donbass.

It has also decided to rely on cooperation with Westinghouse, in an attempt to maintain its nuclear energy capacity. The deal assumes that the spent fuel will be stored near the surface, turning the country into a nuclear dump.

Kiev has recently been rewarded with an official status in NATO. The 2018 NATO summit confirmed its support for Ukraine’s membership. To display its diligence Kiev has recently joined a new three-nation anti-Moscow alliance.

With the US-Russia two-way dialog on Ukraine stalled, Washington is no longer viewed as a mediator, but rather an accomplice who is fueling the conflict. America’s vigorous political support and security assistance is enticing Kiev into seeking a military solution to the crisis in the Donbass. Where could that lead?

Russia can supply the self-proclaimed republics in eastern Ukraine with weapons systems, including the Kornet anti-tank system, which has better specs than the US Javelin. Moscow could recognize the republics as independent states, once the Minsk II accords wash out. If Russian forces are invited in by the governments of those new republics, Moscow may agree to those requests, which would be an action strictly in compliance with international law.

This is the scenario the US and Ukraine may provoke.  They will have no one to blame but themselves.

Via Strategic Culture

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tomWillDippelchristianbloodnormski1John Vu Recent comment authors
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tom

“Ukraine’s government says its military will meet NATO standards by or during the year 2020”.

Meaning that it will then be prepared to be absolutely butchered if it ever tries to tackle the Russian armed forces.

WillDippel
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WillDippel

As shown in this article, there another European nation that is willing to spend billions of dollars to help NATO expand its presence:

https://viableopposition.blogspot.com/2018/05/polands-open-invitation-to-united.html

While the drums of war may not yet be beating, the drummer is certainly sitting on his stool, drumsticks in hand and the American military-industrial complex is just waiting for the music to start.

christianblood
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christianblood

Russia should now provide more modern SAMs, radars and especially more anti-ship missiles to Iran.

normski1
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normski1

US military assistance for Ukraine can only end badly!.

John Vu
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John Vu

And Ukraine still “trumped”

VeeNarian (Yerevan)
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VeeNarian (Yerevan)

Banderised Ukraine needs mental assistance, urgently, before they are dumped in the dustbin of history.

Brewerstroupe
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Brewerstroupe
AmericanCossack
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AmericanCossack

Russia and China should be befriending the new Mexican President Lopez Obrador. Maybe a new joint Russian-Chinese military base in Tijuana would get the attention of those Russophobic a$$holes in Washington.

Penny Fulton
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Penny Fulton

For ‘assistance ‘ always read ‘occupation ‘ . Lucky old Ukraine people , now totally occupied by and forever beholden by debt to the USA !
Just as the UK Gov. agreed to be after the war, in exchange for a few beads and trinkets for the people .

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Theresa May’s soft Brexit plan continues to fail, as EU now pushing for UK to leave (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 138.

Alex Christoforou

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Theresa May’s soft Brexit strategy has been such a monumental failure that even Brussels negotiators are now pushing for the UK to simply leave the union, in what has becoming a British debacle, and a thorn in the Conservative Party’s side.

Many media pundits and analysts are now asking if the latest impasse in Brexit talks means that we are indeed seeing the last days of Theresa May?

While much of the mess the Conservative Party finds themselves in because of Brexit is squarely Theresa May’s fault, much of the damage done by May’s inability to close the deal on Brexit will not go away, even if she does.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss Theresa May’s continued failure to obtain her soft Brexit dream, placing herself (and her Conservative Party) in such an embarrassing position, that European Union negotiators, tired of never ending talks, are eager to see Britain go away, in what will be an inevitable hard Brexit.

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“Are these the last days of Theresa May?”, authored by Stephen Bush via The New Statesman:


Are these the last days of Theresa May? This morning’s papers are full of stories of plots and ultimatums to the Prime Minister unless she changes her Brexit strategy, whether from her Scottish MPs over any extension of the transition period due to concerns over fisheries policy, from her Brexiteer MPs over the backstop or from her Cabinet over practically everything.

All this before the Budget next Monday, when Philip Hammond is going to have to find some way to pay for the extra cash for the NHS and Universal Credit all while keeping to May’s pledge that debt will continue to fall as a share of GDP. So added to all May’s Brexit woes, a row over tax rises could be coming down the track.

Of course, the PM’s position has been perilous for a very long time – in fact, when you remember that her period of hegemony ran from July 2016 to June 2017, she’s actually been under threat for more of her premiership than she hasn’t. But just because you roll heads 36 times in a row doesn’t mean your chances of rolling tails aren’t 50/50 on roll 37, and May’s luck could well be running out.

But while May shares a good size of the blame for the mess that the Conservative Party are in, it’s not all her fault by any means and none of those problems will go away if May is replaced or changes tack to win over her internal opponents in the European Research Group.

Ireland has a veto over the end state and only an indefinite and legally binding backstop for the island of Ireland will do if any deal is to be signed off. It’s true to say that no deal also means a hard border on the island of Ireland, but it’s also true that it will always been in the political interests of whoever is in office in Ireland for a hard border to be imposed as a result of no deal rather than for the Irish government to acquiesce in the creation of one through a EU-UK treaty.

The DUP can bring the Conservative government to an early end so they, too, have a de facto veto over any deal that creates barriers between Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. But the only UK-wide solution – for the backstop to encompass the whole of the United Kingdom – is nothing doing with pro-Brexit Conservative MPs who don’t want an indefinite backstop. It’s also politically tricky with many EU member states, who don’t want the default outcome of the talks to be a UK-wide backstop, which many regard as a threat to the sanctity of single market. (The only reason why it is acceptable on the Irish border is because Ireland is still a member state and because the Irish border was both the location and the cause of political violence within living memory.)

Added to that, the Conservative parliamentary party seems to be undergoing a similar psychological journey to the one that Steve van Riel described during the 2015 Labour leadership election: that groups of any kind tend to reach a more extreme position the longer an issue is debated. Brexiteers who spent 20 years saying they wanted a Norway style deal now talk of Norway as a betrayal. Leavers who cheerily talked about making Northern Ireland into its own customs area before Brexit now talk of the backstop as a constitutional betrayal. And Conservative Remainers who only reluctantly backed an In vote to avoid the political upheaval of negotiating Brexit, or the loss of David Cameron, now call for a referendum re-run and privately flirt with the idea of a new party.

Some of that is May’s fault, yes. But none of it is going to go away if she does and all of it makes the prospect of reaching a Brexit deal considerably less likely.

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Saudi Crown Prince Spoke To Khashoggi By Phone Moments Before He Was Killed: Report

The shifting Saudi narrative of the killing has been met with scepticism and condemnation from the international community.

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Via Zerohedge


In the latest bombshell report involving the Khashoggi murder, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reportedly spoke on the phone with journalist Jamal Khashoggi moments before he was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkish pro-government daily Yeni Safak disclosed the new alleged details of the case in a report on Sunday, contradicting claims by Saudi authorities that Prince Mohammed played no part in Khashoggi’s murder.

“Khashoggi was detained by the Saudi team inside the consulate building. Then Prince Mohammed contacted Khashoggi by phone and tried to convince him to return to Riyadh,” the report said.

“Khashoggi refused Prince Mohammed’s offer out of fear he would be arrested and killed if he returned. The assassination team then killed Khashoggi after the conversation ended,” it added.

While the report is so far unconfirmed, the New Arab reports that so far Turkish pro-government media have been receiving a steady stream of leaks many of which turned out to be accurate, including pictures of the hit team as they entered Turkey and reports of audio recordings of the murder said to be in the possession of Turkish authorities.

Meanwhile, the Saudi version of events has been changing significantly over the past two weeks with authorities conceded Saturday that Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist and a Riyadh critic, was killed inside the kingdom’s Istanbul diplomatic compound following a “brawl”. The admission came after a fortnight of denials with the insistence that the journalist left the consulate alive, starting on October 5, when Crown Prince MBS told Bloomberg that Khashoggi was not inside the consulate and “we are ready to welcome the Turkish government to go and search our premises”.

On Saturday, the kingdom announced it had fired five top officials and arrested 18 others in an investigation into the killing – a move that has widely been viewed as an attempt to cover up the crown prince’s role in the murder.

The shifting Saudi narrative of the killing has been met with scepticism and condemnation from the international community, and has left the U.S. and other allies struggling for a response on Sunday. As Bloomberg reports, France demanded more information, Germany put arms sales to Riyadh on hold and the Trump administration stressed the vital importance of the kingdom and its economy to the U.S.

In Sunday radio and TV interviews, Dominic Raab, the U.K. politician in charge of negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union, described the latest Saudi account as not credible; French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called for “the truth’’; and Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said his government would approve no arms sales so long as the investigation was ongoing.

Earlier on Sunday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir acknowledged a cover-up attempt. The dramatic reversal, after Saudi officials had previously said the columnist left the building alive, has only complicated the issue for allies.

Saudi Arabia’s al-Jubeir told Fox News on Sunday that the journalist’s death was an “aberration.”

“There obviously was a tremendous mistake made and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to cover up,” he said, promising that “those responsible will be punished for it.”

More importantly, he said that Prince Mohammed had no knowledge of the events, although if the Turkish report is confirmed, it will be yet another major flaw with the official narrative.

Several senior members of US President Donald Trump’s Republican Party said they believed Prince Mohammed was linked to the killing, and one called for a “collective” Western response if a link is proved. In an interview with The Washington Post, President Trump, too, said the Saudi narrative had been marked by “deception and lies.’’ Yet he also defended Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a “strong person,’’ and said there was no proof of his involvement in Khashoggi’s death. Some members of Congress have questioned his willingness to exonerate the prince.

“Obviously there’s been deception and there’s been lies,” Trump said on the shifting accounts offered by Riyadh.

On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan promised to disclose details about the case at a meeting of his AK Party’s parliamentary faction on Tuesday, Haberturk newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, as Western firms and high-ranked officials scramble to avoid any Saudi involvement, Russia is more than happy to step in and fill the power vacuum void left by the US. As a result, Russian businesses are flocking to attend the investment forum in Saudi Arabia, as Western counterparts pull out.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has had considerable success boosting Moscow’s influence in the Middle East at U.S. expense, by standing by regimes that fall afoul of the West, including in Syria and Iran. Last week Putin signed a strategic and partnership agreement with Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, backed by $25 billion in loans to build nuclear reactors. Until El-Sisi came to power, Egypt had been closely allied to the U.S.

Meanwhile, all eyes are fixed squarely on the Crown Prince whose position of power is looking increasingly perilous. Congressional leaders on Sunday dismissed the story proffered earlier by the Saudis, with Republican Senators Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Bob Corker of Tennessee saying they believed the crown prince was likely involved in Khashoggi’s death.

Lawmakers said they believe the U.S. must impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia or take other action if the crown prince is shown to have been involved. Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, said the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. should be formally expelled until a third-party investigation is done. He said the U.S. should call on its allies to do the same.

“Unless the Saudi kingdom understands that civilized countries around the world are going to reject this conduct and make sure that they pay a price for it, they’ll continue doing it,”’ Durbin said.

The obvious question is what happens and how the Saudi royal family will respond if it is pushed too far, and whether the worst case scenario, a sharp cut in oil exports, could be on the table if MBS feels like he has little to lose from escalating the situation beyond a point of no return.

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The Biggest Winners In The Mediterranean Energy War

Energy companies are flocking to the Mediterranean after oil and gas discoveries in the territorial waters of Israel, Cyprus, and Egypt.

The Duran

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Authored by Vanand Meliksetian via Oilprice.com:


Former Vice-President of the United States Dick Cheney once said: “the good lord didn’t see fit to put oil and gas only where there are democratically elected states… Occasionally we have to operate in places where, all considered, one would not normally choose to go. But we go where the business is.” Europe is surrounded by states with abundant energy resources, but supply from these countries is not always as reliable. Russia, for example, is regularly accused of using energy as a weapon. However, major discoveries of gas in the Eastern Mediterranean could mitigate dependence on Russian gas.

The discovery of a gas field named Tamar near the coast of Israel in 2009 set off a wave of investments in the energy sector. After 9 years, companies are flocking to the region after other discoveries in the territorial waters of Israel, Cyprus, and Egypt. Ever larger finds in the Mediterranean Sea’s Levant Basin such as the Leviathan gas field in 2010 and Zohr in 2015, have the potential to transform the strategic importance of the region.

Turkey’s energy hub ambitions

Few states in the world are geographically so well positioned as Turkey. The country controls Russia’s only warm water port in the Black Sea and serves as a bridge between east and west. Therefore, during the Cold War Ankara was an indispensable member of NATO. More recently, Turkey has the ambition to become an energy hub for Middle Eastern and Caspian energy. Ankara has had mixed successes in attracting investors and maintaining political stability.

After Israel’s significant discoveries, a U.S. backed initiative presented Turkey as an energy hub. Although a land pipeline is the cheapest option to transport gas from the Mediterranean to Europe, political developments have stalled construction. President Erdogan’s escalating public denunciations of Israel have made Jerusalem look for other options. Furthermore, relations with Europe have also been damaged which would be dependent on Turkey as a transit country.

Egypt as the regional gas hub

Egypt’s has the third largest gas reserves in Africa. Therefore, its export-oriented LNG industry came on-stream in 2004 but was shut mid-2013 due to a lack of resources. The growth of the domestic market demanded ever larger volumes, which went at the expense of exports. Instead, Egypt started importing LNG. However, the discovery of the massive Zohr gas field, the largest in the Eastern Mediterranean, has turned around the situation. Egypt imported its last shipment of LNG in September 2018.

Although relations between Egypt and Israel are far from normal, privately held companies have been able to strike a deal. Starting from the first quarter of 2019, in 10 years 64 bcm worth $10 billion will be delivered. The agreement has stirred controversy in Egypt, which until recently was exporting to Israel. However, with this deal, Cairo comes closer in becoming an energy hub.

The recent signing of another agreement, this time with Nicosia to develop a subsea pipeline from Cyprus’ Aphrodite gas field, has been another important step. Cypriot gas will be pumped 400 miles (645 kilometers) to the south to Egypt’s LNG facilities. Difficult relations with Nicosia’s northern neighbors make a pipeline to the north highly unlikely.

Cairo has been able to act pragmatically concerning its relations with its neighbors such as Israel while taking advantage of the limited amount of options for exporting gas. The obvious winner in this context has been Egypt and its LNG industry. Its chances of becoming the regional energy hub instead of Turkey have significantly increased.

Turkey’s hope for luck

All littoral states of the Eastern Mediterranean struck ‘gold’ in the shape of natural gas except for Turkey. Ankara strongly opposes the exploitation of the gas resources in the exclusive economic zone of the Republic of Cyprus without a sharing agreement with Northern Cyprus’ Turkish inhabitants. The Turkish Navy prevented ships from Italy’s Eni from performing exploratory drilling off the coast of the Republic of Cyprus.

In search of its own luck, Ankara has set up a project to start looking for gas in the EEZ of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), which is only recognized by Turkey. Kudret Özersay, TRNC deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, proclaimed the desire to turn the TRNC into an energy and electricity hub. However, it seems unlikely that investors will be willing to participate due to political and legal reasons.

The legal situation of the TRNC is an impediment to any major decision involving a longtime commitment worth billions. From an international point of view, the region is de jure part of the Republic of Cyprus, despite holding no control over the region. The TRNC holds no seat in the WTO.

Large investments require solid legal and political support for companies to earn back their investments. The current economic situation of Turkey makes it dependent on foreign money. However, stringent due diligence rules could impede some international banks in lending the necessary funds.

The Eastern Mediterranean Sea basin promises great rewards, but the risks are also high. With Turkey potentially being the only country that doesn’t profit from the gas bonanza, Ankara has acted aggressively to get what it regards as its fair share. However, it faces a united front from the other littoral states of the Eastern Mediterranean. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that Turkey will be able to profit in the same way as Cyprus, Egypt or Israel.

By Vanand Meliksetian for Oilprice.com

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