California and Ukraine National Guard gear up for military collaboration in 2015
In the latest step by Washington to increase the pressure on Russia’s border with Ukraine, the Obama administration has informed Congress that the US will train and arm the Ukrainian National Guard next year, the Pentagon said.
“The Defense Department and State Department have notified Congress of our intent to use $19 million in global security contingency fund authority to train and equip four companies and one tactical headquarters of the Ukrainian National Guard as part of their efforts to build their capacity for internal defense,” Reuters quoted Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby as saying Friday.
The joint military training would take place at a facility inside Ukraine that is capable of hosting multilateral exercises, Kirby said. The advisors would be provided by US Army Europe and by the California National Guard, he added.
Also Friday, the United States pledged about $8 million in new aid to bolster the Ukrainian Border Guard Service.
The plan requires Congressional approval, but judging by the level of anti-Russian rhetoric coming from US legislators, this is expected to be forthcoming.
The California National Guard’s military partnership with the Ukraine military has existed since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
California partnered with Ukraine in 1993 to assist the country develop its military capacity, with the two sides participating in numerous military exercises over the years, including Operation Peace Shield and Operation Sea Breeze, which has particularly irked Moscow since the exercise is occasionally held in Crimea, the home of Russia’s Black Sea fleet.
The California-Ukraine partnership is expected to transition to Operation Saber Guardian – a multinational exercise involving 12 nations, including Ukraine.
It may come as a surprise to many American taxpayers that the US National Guard has nearly two dozen state partnerships with foreign countries, most of which were once part of the Soviet Union.
According to the Embassy of the United States in Ukraine, “the California–Ukraine partnership directly supports both the goals of the US Ambassador to Ukraine and Commander, US European Command.” However, the embassy provides no further details as to exactly what those specific “goals” may be.
Bad timing for California National Guardsmen?
Although the Pentagon spokesperson failed to mention Washington’s worsening diplomatic relations with Russia over the deteriorating situation in Ukraine, the announcement comes on the heels of a string of anti-Russian actions, which include a series of sanctions that target Russian businesses and banks.
The marked deterioration in Russia-US relations began late last year after former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich signaled his preference for forging economic ties with Russia – which was prepared to provide a loan bailout to Kiev, something the IMF had been hoping to do – as opposed to the so-called EU association agreement.
This decision, which proved to be politically fateful for Yanukovich, triggered a harsh response from Western governments and politicians, some of whom, including Republican presidential candidate John McCain, appeared in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev to agitate Ukrainians against Russia.
The level of Western meddling in Ukrainian politics became startlingly clear in January when assistant US Secretary of State Viktoria Nuland was recorded in telephone conversation with US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt, where the two officials are heard discussing their preferences as to whom should take over power in the country.
The icing on the cake came when Nuland was heard to bluntly declare, “F**k the EU” with regards to the European bloc’s opinion in the matter.
The latest setback in Russia-US relations came with the July 17 downing of a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine. Western countries, following in the footsteps of the United States, have been quick to cast blame on Russia for the incident, saying it has supplied the rebels with missiles.
Moscow has emphatically rejected the accusations, while at the same time presenting Kiev with a series of questions concerning the crash, including about why Ukrainian air traffic controllers allowed Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 “to deviate from the regular route to the north, toward ‘the anti-terrorist operation zone.’”