Trump Sabotaged Support for Ukraine
Trump Also Resisted the 2018 Sale of Javelins to Ukraine
- Trump’s campaign removed “lethal defensive aid” from the Republican platform
- Trump refused to renew the financial aid package, pushing it to within 3 days of expiring
- The financial aid package is not, as some Republicans have declared, significantly different from the one passed by Congress under Obama
- Trump froze the approved financial aid and in a separate action, threatened to block the sale of Javelins
In this week’s open Congressional hearing with former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, various Republicans reiterated that “under President Trump” the Ukraine is now receiving lethal defensive aid in the form of Javelin anti-tank missiles. Several Republicans attempted to force Ambassador Yovanovitch to concede that Donald Trump has done more for Ukraine than Obama ever did (with the weird implication that Donald Trump loves Ukraine and is only seeking to sort out its various problems).
This, however, is far from true.
As a candidate, Trump’s campaign softened the Republican platform on aid for Ukraine. As president, he was completely against providing lethal defensive support until aides convinced him it would be a profitable business decision. According to Foreign Policy, “They successfully argued that … the Ukrainians would come back later to buy more.”
Trump Campaign Sabotaged and Softened Republican Support for Ukraine
During the 2016 election, Trump campaign boss Paul Manafort, who once worked for corrupt Putin oligarch Viktor Yanukovych, and who has since been indicted on a number of charges, requested a meeting with the Republican National Convention to revise the RNC’s platform on Ukraine.
The campaign provided no input on any other Republican issue, but insisted that the language “lethal defensive weapons” be removed.
As president, Trump protested the sale of Javelins to Ukraine until aides convinced him it would be a profitable enterprise. “He wanted to know if the Ukrainians would pay us back,” a senior official said. The sale was approved in spring of 2018, but the White House instructed officials to keep it under wraps until the weapons were actually delivered.
Aid Freeze Applied Do-or-Die Pressure to Ukraine
Trump’s freeze on the Ukraine aid package pushed it up to three days before its do-or-die renewal date. Had the package expired, it would have needed to be completely renegotiated from scratch — an outcome which Trump undoubtedly saw as leverage.
The legal authority to spend it expired on September 30, with a mandated 15-day wait period before then. The freeze was lifted on September 11, a scant three days before the spending expiration.
On top of that, a flurry of inter-agency memos prove that the White House had no legal standing or right to withhold the aid. In other words, Trump’s action was completely illegal.
Requests from lawmakers and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) requesting an explanation went unanswered. The Dept. of Defense had already vetted Ukraine on issues of corruption and approved the package. As the clock ticked on through July and August, closer and closer to the September expiration, the White House remained silent.
It is this time pressure that caused widespread bipartisan alarm, along with a flurry of complaints and reports.
The 2014 (Obama) Aid Package for Ukraine
In 2014, the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly to provide $1 billion in aid to Ukraine. The package included:
- $291 million in direct aid (total)
- $1 billion loan guarantee
- Additional $7 million for international humanitarian and relief organizations
- $116 million in security equipment and training, including body armor, helmets, vehicles, night and thermal vision devices, heavy engineering equipment, advanced radios, patrol boats, rations, tents, counter-mortar radars, counter-sniper equipment, Humvees and tactical drones
- Election observers
- Support for independent media
- According to White House archives, the US also deployed advisors and experts to assist energy, oil, and banking industries
The 2019 (Trump) Aid Package for Ukraine
The 2019 Ukraine aid package is essentially the same as it has been since 2014, with some additions and deletions of equipment. Unlike the Obama White House, which has a complete description of the aid package available and safely archived online, the Trump administration has not posted any description of the current aid package on WhiteHouse.gov. There are only three Ukraine-related entries in 2019, and they are all brief public remarks by President Trump.
“The latest equipment was largely more of the same aid the U.S. previously supplied …”
According to a September 2019 article in Defense News, “The latest equipment was largely more of the same aid the U.S. previously supplied, aimed at helping Ukraine monitor and secure its borders, deploy its forces more safely and effectively, and make progress toward NATO interoperability.”
The current aid package appears to include:
- $391 million in direct aid (total)
- $1 billion loan guarantee, continued (?)
- $250 million in security equipment and training, including body armor, helmets, vehicles, night and thermal vision devices, heavy engineering equipment, advanced radios, patrol boats, rations, tents, counter-mortar radars, rigid hull boats, sniper rifles, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, counter-artillery radars, electronic warfare detection equipment, secure communications gear, and military medical treatment devices
- $115 million to buy American-produced weapons through the Foreign Military Financing program, English language labs, medical equipment, improvised bomb simulators, spare parts, maintenance, and training for previously purchased U.S. gear.
- (It is unclear from available sources if the current aid package provides election observers, humanitarian aid, and support for independent media)
The 2019 Ukraine aid package does not include Javelins. The State Department and Congress — with recalcitrant and reluctant support from Donald Trump — agreed to approve Ukraine as a buyer in March. Purchases of the Javelins are not included in the aid package, and will be handled separately.
This is an important point because at the time of Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, Trump had already frozen the aid package without explanation or authorization. When Zelenskyy said (according to the White House memo on the call), “we are ready to continue to cooperate for the next steps, specifically we are almost ready to buy more Javelins,” the president then replied: “I would like you to do us a favor though.”
The clear implication here is that Trump is signalling that he would block the sale of Javelins as well as hold up the financial aid package — two separate actions — in support of his quest for political dirt on the Bidens.