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U.S., Ukraine, Russia Forge New Ties

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

KIEV, UKRAINE, Jan. 4, 1996 – As the United States forges new security ties, American service members can expect to meet more of their Ukrainian and Russian counterparts during training exercises.

The United States is developing new security ties with Ukraine. At the same time, the United States, Ukraine and Russia are forming a defense relationship aimed at continuing nuclear dismantlement, according to DoD officials.

"1996 will see the most intense defense cooperation between Ukraine and the United States that we've ever had," said Defense Secretary William J. Perry during a press conference.

Plans call for holding a joint regional exercise in L'viv, Ukraine, this summer. It will involve company-size units from the United States, Russia, Poland, Hungary and other countries. U.S. troops participated in exercises in Russia during the last two years.

Arriving in Kiev Jan. 4, Perry met with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Defense Minister Valeriy Shmarov, and held a separate meeting with Russian Defense Minister Gen. Pavel Grachev. The three defense leaders then held a joint meeting to discuss mutual security issues.

During an interview with Ukrainian television, Perry said he sees Ukraine as a bridge between Russia and the United States. "What I'm looking at is a way for our three nations, working together, to strengthen the security of Europe," he said.

Perry and Shmarov formalized their new relationship, signing a defense cooperation agreement to significantly increase military-to -military contact between the nations. This will include setting up joint working groups, conducting joint exercises and working with Ukraine through Partnership for Peace.

Following his meeting with Perry, Kuchma told reporters relations between Ukraine and Russia have improved. Countries should have good, equal, neighborly relations, Kuchma said.

Ukraine recently offered to send a battalion-size unit to join NATO's peace implementation force in Bosnia. During his meeting with Perry, Shmarov said Ukraine asked the U.S. defense secretary to support Ukraine's offer to participate.

NATO is now considering Ukraine's offer, according to Perry. The Ukrainian unit would probably serve in the French sector under French operational command, he said.

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