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State Dept. Looks To Halve Military Financing for Ukraine

Mar. 4, 2014 - 07:40PM   |  
By ZACHARY FRYER-BIGGS   |   Comments
US Secretary of State John Kerry lays red roses to the Shrine of the Fallen, an homage to anti-government protesters who died during February clashes with anti-riot policemen in Kiev.
US Secretary of State John Kerry lays red roses to the Shrine of the Fallen, an homage to anti-government protesters who died during February clashes with anti-riot policemen in Kiev. (Agence France-Presse)
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WASHINGTON — Despite the ongoing turmoil in the Ukraine, the State Department’s 2015 budget request includes halving the amount the agency earmarks for financing military equipment for the country currently facing partial occupation by Russian troops.

The 2015 request follows a trend in recent years toward reduced military aid for the Ukraine, part of the State Department’s Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program. In 2012, Ukraine received $7 million in FMF funds, which dropped to $6.7 million in 2013. While actual spending numbers aren’t available for 2014, the State Department requested only $4.2 million. In the new 2015 budget, State is requesting $2 million.

FMF funds are not meant to rapidly help a nation with its military, but to purchase US military equipment through the Foreign Military Sales process, which can take years between negotiation and congressional consultation.

But the decline in assistance to the Ukraine is notable in the midst of heightened military tension after Russian troops took control of the Crimean peninsula, even surrounding Ukrainian military installations. The numbers, however, do require some context: $2 million would buy only 2 percent of an F-35.

A State Department spokesman said the agency was unable to provide comment before publication.

Overall, the FMF program request included a roughly 5 percent drop in total funding, while keeping requests flat for the two largest recipients, Israel ($3.1 billion) and Egypt ($1.3 billion).

The consistency of the Egypt request comes despite the State Department’s withholding of some funds since last summer due to concerns about the military’s control of the government and crackdown on dissent, although officials have insisted the intent is to continue to supply Egypt with arms to combat terrorism in the region.

Secretary of State John Kerry has pledged $1 billion in debt relief and financial assistance to the new government of the Ukraine as it tries to stay afloat while Russia and the US posture.

A senior administration official, talking to reporters on a conference call Tuesday, said that the budget predates the crisis in the Ukraine.

“I would just say that when we put this budget together we were basically finished before the crisis in Ukraine occurred,” the official said. “And so this budget does not reflect any special reallocation to deal with the emergency there, but we are looking at existing resources to cover the things that the secretary announced and that Secretary of Treasury Lew announced today in terms of the loan guarantee and additional programming. That’s urgent and that really can’t wait necessarily for the fiscal year ’15 budget to be enacted. We’re looking at what we have right now in our available resources to deal with that crisis.” ■

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