The Defense Department announced in a press release Friday that the decision from the Trump administration “reaffirms the long-standing defense relationship between the United States and Ukraine,” while bringing the total aid provided to Ukraine since the annexation of Crimea in 2014 up to $1 billion.
“The added funds will provide equipment to support ongoing training programs and operational needs, including capabilities to enhance Ukraine’s command and control, situational awareness systems, secure communications, military mobility, night vision, and military medical treatment,” the statement reads.
Citing a recently-passed Ukrainian law boosting cybersecurity coordination between the country and NATO, the Pentagon noted that the new reforms would improve Ukraine’s ability to defend against future territorial aggression, a clear reference to Russia.
“The implementation of these reforms will bolster Ukraine’s ability to defend its territorial integrity in support of a secure and democratic Ukraine,” the press release reads.
Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and founded the Senate Ukraine Caucus, cheered Friday’s announcement which he called “a clear message that America stands with the Ukrainian people in their struggle…against Russian aggression.”
The Trump administration announced last December that the U.S. military would begin sending lethal aid to Ukraine, a departure from Obama White House policy. Obama administration officials repeatedly refused to provide the country with lethal aid in its struggle against Russian-backed paramilitary forces, worried that such a move would escalate future conflict.
The Pentagon’s decision to increase military aid for Ukraine’s government comes after President Trump faced a whirlwind of criticism for remarks he made during a joint press conference with Russia’s Vladimir Putin on Monday, during which the president seemed to side with Putin against his own intelligence agencies.
Trump called the remark a mistake on Tuesday, telling reporters that he meant to back the intelligence community’s findings on 2016, but the administration still faces questions over whether the president was sufficiently confronting Putin on issues of election interference and foreign policy.
In his meeting with Trump, Putin floated the idea of allowing Ukraine’s eastern regions to vote on joining Russia in a referendum, a move that the White House said Friday it was not considering.
“Presidents Trump and Putin discussed a wide range of national security issues is Helsinki. The U.S. position on Ukraine remains the same,” a National Security Council spokesperson told The Hill in a statement.