Obama Administration Security Assistance to Ukraine

From 2014-2016, the U.S. provided more than $600 million in security assistance to Ukraine.
  • The 2016 aid package included support through training (for conventional and special operations forces), equipment (including counter-artillery and tactical UAVs), and advisers (to advance defense reforms).
    • For example, this assistance included “sophisticated defensive radar systems, including ones that can track mortar fire to its source allowing for highly accurate counter-targeting.”
    • The 2017 NDAA signed by President Obama authorized an additional $150 million to train and equip Ukraine.
    • The Trump administration package includes many of the same items, like medical equipment.
  • In addition, the U.S. and our NATO allies worked together to endorse a Comprehensive Assistance Package for Ukraine in 2016.
In response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, the Obama administration launched the European Reassurance Initiative to boost security support to NATO allies, including Ukraine. 
  • The program was announced in 2014 with a $1 billion emergency investment in response to Russia’s aggression. In 2016, the administration quadrupled the investment to $3.4 billion for 2017. It was renamed the European Deterrence Initiative in 2017.
  • Through Operation Atlantic Resolve, ERI invested in presence; training and exercises; infrastructure; prepositioned equipment; and building partner capacity.
The 5-year bilateral partner concept agreed to by Secretary Carter and Minister Poltorak in 2016 is key to continued defense cooperation between the U.S. and Ukraine.
  • The agreement provides a framework for bilateral cooperation, transfer of military equipment, material and technical resources, and the provision of services and training of personnel
  • Secretary Carter appointed Retired four-star Gen. John Abizaid, the former commander of U.S. Central Command [and current US Ambassador to KSA], as a senior defense adviser to Ukraine, in response to a Ukrainian request


Training Focused on Russia: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko described the goal of the training as “to learn how to beat Russia.” [Politico, 11/23/15] Training Agitated Russia: [A]ccording to Oleksiy Melnyk, a defense analyst at the Razumkov Center think tank in Kyiv, the US mission also sends a strong political message to the Kremlin. “The noise raised by the Russian side about how this destabilizes the situation is a sign of how crucial [the US presence] is,” he said. “In reality, this is a stabilizing factor.” [Global Post, 4/22/15] Training was Effective: About 300 U.S. Army paratroopers have been working with a mix of Ukrainian combat veterans and fresh recruits. Officials say they’ve seen clear improvement in the Ukrainians’ combat effectiveness and cite it as a reason the pro-Russian separatists have made few territorial gains since summer. [Politico, 11/23/15] Training Addressed Dangerous Vulnerabilities: “They’ve suffered severe casualties, and this was an acknowledgment that, at least in part, those casualties may have been because of insufficient military skill,” Farkas said. [Politico, 11/23/15] “And given Russia’s use of hybrid warfare – exemplified by the so-called ‘little green men’ in Ukraine – we are investing in additional rotational presence of US Special Operations Forces, which are particularly well equipped to help allies respond to such activities.” [Secretary Carter, Remarks at the Atlantic Council, 11/23/16]


“I was not initially in 2015, before I joined the government, and I’m sure that many people on the committee have seen that I wrote an opinion piece with a colleague at the Brookings Institution in that juncture, because I was very worried at that particular point in time that the Ukrainian military not in a fit state to really take onboard sophisticated weapons, be they defensive or offensive weapons. And I worried that there was not a long-term sustainable plan given the overwhelming force that the Russians could apply against the Ukrainians. However, when I came into government in 2017 and started to interact with all of my colleagues in the Pentagon, and you had Laura Cooper here yesterday, I realized in fact that there had been an awful lot of work done on this and that there was a clear and consistent plan for the sustainability long-term of the Ukrainian military, so I changed my mind.” [Testimony, 11/21/19]