Following a report in December that the U.S. State Department was aiming to provide Ukraine with “enhanced defensive capabilities” in order to help “defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity and deter further aggression,” officials this week have reportedly finalized the deal and the proposition is headed to Congress.
The Pentagon said on Thursday that the State Department has approved the possible sale of Javelin anti-tank missiles for an estimated $47 million.
Since 2014, pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian government forces have clashed in eastern Ukraine, leading to more than 10,000 deaths in three years. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said back in December that any weapons provided by the U.S. would be used to protect Ukrainian solider and civilians. Russia insisted that U.S. involvement would instead encourage Ukraine to use force, but U.S. officials have been dismissive of the idea that the conflict would worsen.
“Defensive weapons are not provocative unless you’re an aggressor, and clearly, Ukraine is not an aggressor, since it’s their own territory where the fighting is happening,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said last year during a trip to Kiev.
In a statement on Thursday, the Pentagon said that the proposed sale would not alter the military balance in the region
“The Javelin system will help Ukraine build its long-term defense capacity to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity in order to meet its national defense requirements,” the Pentagon said.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency also said in its official notice that “this proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by improving the security of Ukraine. The Javelin system will help Ukraine build its long-term defense capacity to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity in order to meet its national defense requirements. Ukraine will have no difficulty absorbing this system into its armed forces.”
In total, Ukraine’s government has requested 210 Javelin missiles and 37 Javelin Command Launch Units supplied by a joint venture between Raytheon Co. and Lockheed martin Corp.
The proposed deal now heads to Congress, where it has a 30-day period in which it could be blocked. However, lawmakers from both parties have expressed immense support for the sale.
“Ukraine is a critical ally to the United States, and I am so pleased to see our country provide this long-overdue assistance in Ukraine’s fight to push back against growing Russian aggression,” Republican Sen. Joni Ernst said in a statement Thursday. “Providing lethal aid to Ukraine shows that the United States is serious about protecting the interests of our nation and our allies.”