Speaking at a press conference in Kyiv, US Defense Secretary James Mattis declared that Washington will never accept the illegal annexation of Crimea and will always support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine:
“We do not, and we will not, accept Russia’s seizure of Crimea and despite Russia’s denials, we know they are seeking to redraw international borders by force, undermining the sovereign and free nations of Europe.”
He sat down at the press conference with his Ukrainian counterpart, Defense Minister Stepan Poltorak, and President Petro Poroshenko, after attending a military parade on the occasion of Ukraine’s 26th Independence Anniversary. For the first time, the parade was broadly attended by foreign military representatives: ten foreign military brigades, including eight from NATO countries, and nine foreign Ministers of Defense.
James Mattis said that the USA intends to strengthen its military cooperation with Ukraine, and announced that the USA had already approved providing Ukraine with $175 mn-worth of defense equipment and that the US administration is discussing giving Kyiv lethal defensive weapons. He reminded that in the recent years, the USA had delivered nearly $750-mn worth of military equipment to Ukraine.
Mattis said that he will inform the leadership of the USA about specific things he recommends doing after he gets a clearer idea of what Ukraine needs during the visit.
Answering the replica of a New York Times journalist about the former US administration under Barack Obama asserting that providing lethal defensive weapons like Javelins to Ukraine, which is battling Russian-backed separatists in its easternmost part, Donbas, for the fourth year, would provoke Russia, the US Secretary of Defense said:
“Defensive weapons aren’t provocative unless you’re an aggressor. And Ukraine is not an aggressor, it is fighting on its own territory.”
As well, he said that the USA will further pressure Russia to make it comply with the Minsk agreements, which were developed to stop the conflict in Donbas and reintegrate the region back into Ukraine. He stressed that Russia agreed with the Minsk agreements to stop the fire, to withdraw its troops from Ukraine, and provide for the further cooperation to ensure security in Europe. He reminded that Russia had earlier signed the Budapest Memorandum together with Great Britain and the USA, as part of which all the sides declared about their respect to the independence and territorial integrity of Ukraine.
“The Russian Federation also pledged to refrain from using force against Ukraine and threats of using nuclear weapons. Also, in the NATO-Russia Cooperation Act, the Russian Federation committed itself to respecting the territorial integrity and political independence of other countries. Unfortunately, Russia does not respect the letter, much less the spirit of these international obligations,” he noted.
Mattis stressed that he expects Ukraine to fully implement NATO standards in its defense sector and that the USA supports Ukrainian efforts in this direction, in the result of which the armed forces of Ukraine become more effective.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko thanked the US Defense Secretary for the strong support by the US Administration of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence of Ukraine.
/written by Alya Shandra