After calls for Black Sea FONOPS, US to support Ukraine Navy with $10m investment

The US state department announced on Friday it would support the development of Ukraine’s naval capabilities with $10 million in foreign military financing (FMF).

A Ukrainian Ka-27 helicopter takes off from US Navy command and control ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) in the Black Sea, during exercise Sea Breeze 2018. Photo: US Navy

FMF enables eligible nations to purchase US-produced military equipment, services, and training.

The department said the investment was in response to Russia’s “dangerous escalation and unjustified November 25 attack” on three Ukrainian naval vessels near the Kerch Strait.

It was not specified what the financial support will entail. It was also noted that funding is subject to Congressional approval. Announcing this decision, the state department said it was joining Lithuania and the United Kingdom who also planning to increase their security assistance to Ukraine.

UK defense secretary Gavin Williamson visited Ukraine’s Odesa naval base last week, where Royal Navy ship HMS Echo on December 19 for joint exercises and engagements. In addition to the visit of HMS Echo, the UK will also be offering support and mentoring to the Ukrainian Navy and deploying training teams made up from the Royal Navy, Royal Marines and the Army in January and March 2019.

The US state department’s announcement of financial support for the Ukrainian Navy comes just days after 41 US senators issued a resolution calling for a “prompt” multinational freedom of navigation operation in the Black Sea and the cancellation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline in response to Russia’s actions in the Kerch Strait and the Sea of Azov.

“The United States and our allies need to rapidly counter Russia’s military aggression in the Kerch Strait with strong and resolute action,” Sen. Ron Johnson said. “Assembling a multinational freedom of navigation operation in the Black Sea to help ensure safe passage into the Sea of Azov, combined with cancellation of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is exactly the kind of response Putin needs to see.”

“Ukraine is the front line of Vladimir Putin’s struggle against the free world and, last month, Russia’s attack on Ukrainian ships near the Kerch Strait marked a dangerous escalation of that conflict. We have to respond, and respond with strength. Weakness will only provoke further aggression. The United States must enhance our lethal aid to Ukraine, especially to enhance its maritime capabilities. And working together with our European allies, we should conduct freedom of navigation operations in the Black Sea to deter further bullying. Ukraine has never asked Americans or Europeans to do their fighting for them. They have asked only that we give them the tools they need to defend themselves and their country. Ukrainians need and deserve our help. This resolution is the right step,” said Sen. Jim Inhofe.