US Pentagon chief in Ukraine to build defence cooperation - GulfToday

US Pentagon chief in Ukraine to build defence cooperation


US defence secretary Lloyd Austin attends a meeting. File photo

Gulf Today Report

The US defence secretary arrived in Ukraine on Tuesday for talks aimed at underlining Washington's support of Kiev in its conflict with pro-Russia separatists and pressing for more military reforms.

Lloyd Austin is planning to meet President Volodymyr Zelensky and Defence Minister Andriy Taran, less than two months after both came to Washington to meet President Joe Biden, seeking assurances of US support.


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Meanwhile, on Monday, the International Monetary Fund and Ukraine announced an agreement that could pave the way for Kyiv to receive a $700 million disbursement and secure an extension to its $5 billion loan programme through to June.

Ukraine had secured a stand-by loan deal last year as the country, one of Europe's poorest, tumbled into recession due to the coronavirus pandemic. But loan disbursal stalled over concerns about reforms and the independence of the central bank.

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President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks at a meeting. File photo

Underscoring the US commitment, a fresh tranche of lethal arms and other military equipment was delivered Monday to Ukraine, part of a $60 million package the Biden administration approved.

That is designed to help Ukraine forces maintain their strength against Russia-allied rebels in the country's east, in a seven-year-war that has cost 14,000 lives.

But the main point of Austin's visit, a senior US defence official said, is to emphasise the need for more reforms, in regularising the defence industry, strengthening human resources development in the military, and deepening civilian control of the armed forces.

The human resources reforms are highly important in building the Ukraine military's ability to work closely with NATO, as it seeks membership in the Atlantic alliance.

"The Ukrainian government is committed to advancing these reforms," the official said, adding: "We need to enhance Ukraine's civilian control of the military."

The meetings Tuesday are a "high priority" for the Pentagon, the official said.

"It was important for us to show the Ukrainian people that we are here standing beside them."


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