The top U.S. military commander in Europe says he believes more anti-tank Javelin systems will help Ukraine defend its territory.
The portable fire-and-forget anti-tank missile system has provided a boost to Ukraine’s military capability to combat Russian-backed separatists, but some analysts contend that sophisticated tank buster will do little for a war that has grounded down to entrenched artillery barrages.
Air Force Gen. Tod D. Wolters, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe and commander of U.S. European Command, told reporters at the Pentagon Thursday that it was his advice that the U.S. should “go forward” with providing more Javelins to Ukraine.
Wolters also said he believed the security situation in Ukraine had “plateaued” and was on a “positive trajectory."
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told President Donald Trump during a July 25 phone call that Ukraine was “ready to buy more Javelins from the United· States for defense purposes,” according to a White House memorandum of the phone conversation.
That call is now subject of House impeachment inquiry over an allegation Trump sought to leverage U.S. military aid to Ukraine in exchange for dirt on political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
Trump reportedly asked for a freeze on nearly $391 million in military aid to Ukraine — $250 million of that aid was announced by the DoD in June for training, equipment, and advisory efforts for Ukraine’s military.
The Defense Department’s General Counsel’s Office has directed DoD offices to provide any pertinent documents and records pertaining to Ukrainian aid initiatives to its office for review, Jonathan Hoffman, the chief Pentagon spokesman, told reporters Tuesday.
Hoffman said the DoD’s General Counsel’s Office request for the records was “standard practice” and “routine” when there is congressional interest in a matter.
The State Department on Thursday approved the possible Foreign Military Sale to Ukraine of 150 Javelin missiles and related equipment and support for an estimated cost not to exceed $39.2 million. This sale is separate from the Trump Ukraine controversy, and Javelins were not part of the $250 million in aid announced by the DoD in June.
In March 2018, the U.S State Department announced it had approved the sale of 210 Javelin missiles and 37 launch units valued at $47 million.
The Javelins, Wolters explained, are a “sophisticated” and “defensive contribution” that afford “great precision” and speed for Ukrainian forces. The NATO commander characterized Ukrainian force training on the anti-tank system by U.S. military teams this summer as being “very very productive.”
“You see a little bit of a bounce in the step of a Ukrainian soldier when he or she has had the opportunity to embrace this system,” Wolters told reporters. “The Ukrainian military is excited about the Javelins.”
Col. Andrii Ordynovych, Ukraine’s military attache in Washington, D.C., told Military Times that the U.S.-supplied Javelins have caused Russian tanks and armored personnel carriers to back off.
“That was a strategic deterrence,” he said.
Wolters said his conversations with Ukrainian military counterparts have been “centered and focused on the operations, activities, training events and exercises that we’ve embraced there.”
Wolters also expressed concern said about the “malign influence” of Russia in the information space. He explained to reporters that this kind of “malign influence” has been “evident for the last several years” around Baltic countries.
EUCOM has postured to combat this “malign influence” by having indications and warnings to detect it, command and control to neutralize it and by working with U.S. Cyber Command, according to Wolters.
“With the glide path that we are currently on, the aggressive NATO and U.S. engagements from a military training team perspective to help secure the sovereignty of Ukraine has us on a positive trajectory,” Wolters said Thursday.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.