The U.S. provided a shipment of Bradley Fighting Vehicles, howitzer artillery and tanks to aid Ukraine in its ongoing fight against Russian-backed rebels, but there’s a few problems: the equipment is breaking, being mothballed, and a lot of it is not going to Ukraine, according to a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal by Tim Gibbons-Neff.
“If the Americans are going to send us equipment, don’t send us secondhand stuff,” said a Ukrainian special forces commander.
The commander’s concerns are certainly warranted. Some of the Humvees given to Ukraine are over 30 years old. A company unit of 120 soldiers received a single bullet-proof vest which was several years old, making it essentially useless considering body armor often has a limited shelf life.
According to Boris Zilberman, an expert on Russia and deputy director of congressional relations for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies: “The US had ample time to provide the Ukrainians with adequate gear which if these reports are accurate, failed to do so. The US could be doing a lot more to beef up Ukraine’s defensive capabilities – or at minimum give adequate equipment to replace the faulty equipment already delivered.”
To make matters worse, the most recent shipment composed of 250 Bradleys, 900 miscellaneous vehicles, and various other pieces of equipment will be spread out among six nations in Eastern Europe and put in various storage caches. Additionally, Defense Secretary Ash Carter noted the equipment will remain in storage for use by U.S. forces in “training exercises.”
Carter’s announcement is likely a response to growing concern by Eastern European countries like Poland and the Baltics that they could suffer the same fate as Ukraine. “Eastern Europe, and particularly the Baltic states are rightfully worried about their defensive capabilities. The Baltic states have little strategic depth and would have a hard time defending themselves against a Russian invasion in a worst case scenario,” Zilberman says.
On the other side of the conflict, Russian support of the rebels in eastern Ukraine dwarfs the efforts of U.S. and NATO. In September, Russia began construction on a new base 28 miles away from the Ukrainian border that will house up to 5,000 troops. The new border base follows another Russian construction project on a major installation in Voronezh border region that will have the capacity to hold 1,300 armored vehicles. NATO has claimed Russia uses these kinds of installations as practical forward operating bases for Russian troops entering Ukraine.
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