Defense Officials in Ukraine for Consultations
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 1, 2014 Senior U.S. defense officials are in Kiev, Ukraine, for bilateral defense consultations with Ukrainian defense officials, Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren said today.
Evelyn Farkas, deputy assistant defense secretary for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia policy, and Air Force Maj. Gen. Randy Kee, director of strategy and policy for U.S. European Command, met with Ukrainian Defense Minister Michail Koval to discuss regional security, defense cooperation and areas for growth in the U.S.-Ukraine relationship, Warren said.
The ongoing tensions with Russia, which annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region last month, are expected to be a key component of today’s discussions, the colonel said.
Ukraine and U.S. defense officials last met in March 2013 at the Pentagon for this type of bilateral defense consultation, the colonel said.
The meetings are a regular occurrence, he noted.
“This is an example of our ongoing support and our commitment to the bilateral defense relationship with Ukraine,” Warren said.
Ukraine’s request for U.S. assistance in planning a humanitarian assistance command post exercise is expected to be part of the consultations, he said.
A separate request for military equipment and materiel is still under consideration, Warren said.
“We haven't come to any final determinations,” he said, “other than the meals, ready to eat, which were delivered over the weekend.”
The continuing presence of tens of thousands of Russian troops along Ukraine’s eastern border “are doing nothing to help de-escalate the tensions in that region,” the colonel said.
“Although the Russians have stated to us that they are conducting exercises, we have not seen evidence of [the] exercises that they described,” he added.
Some news reports have indicated that Russian troops have begun withdrawing from the area, but, Warren said, there is so far no evidence of troop withdrawals.
“If these reports that we're beginning to see are true, we would welcome that as a step in the right direction,” the colonel said. “We have said all along that the solution is diplomatic and it's political. … We've long called on the Russians to reduce their troop presence along the Ukrainian border.”
Elsewhere in the region, three U.S. Air Force C-130J Super Hercules aircraft and about 100 personnel -- most from Ramstein Air Base in Germany -- arrived in Powidz, Poland, over the weekend and are scheduled to remain there through April 12, Warren said.
The troops are part of a regularly scheduled quarterly training rotation hosted by the U.S. Aviation Detachment in Poland, he said. This is the third C-130 rotation and the sixth overall training rotation that the aviation detachment has hosted since standing up in October 2012.
“The Aviation Detachment serves as an enduring forward presence to enable combined U.S. and Poland training and exercises,” Warren said.
(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @rouloafps)