Pentagon ‘watching’ as Russia steps up aggression in Eastern Europe

The president also recently approved an additional $125 million worth of lethal aid to Ukraine to defend its borders with Russia, including two armed patrol boats and counter-artillery radar. The U.S. has committed more than $2 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since 2014, including providing Javelin anti-tank missiles. While the Obama administration sent military equipment to Ukraine, the lethal aid didn’t come until the Trump administration.

Biden has a long history of advocating support for Ukraine, particularly after Russia invaded Crimea in 2014. As vice president and the Obama administration’s primary emissary to Kyiv, Biden visited the country six times and spent hours on the phone with its leaders.

He also spearheaded efforts to send American forces to train Ukrainian fighters and prodded top officials to root out corruption, his advisers told POLITICO during an interview last year.

Pentagon response: Pentagon leaders are expressing their concerns to NATO allies about the renewed fighting in Eastern Europe, which killed four Ukrainian soldiers on March 26 and wounded two more, as well as the buildup of Russian forces, spokesperson John Kirby said Wednesday.

“We obviously don’t want to see any more violations of Ukrainian territory,” Kirby said. “We’ve been very clear about the threats that we see from Russia across domains … we’re taking them very seriously.”

Kirby said he is not aware of any interaction between Russians and U.S. forces in Eastern Europe.

Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discussed the security situation by phone with his Russian and Ukrainian counterparts separately on Wednesday, according to a readout from his office. Also on Wednesday, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he discussed “ways of strengthening security cooperation” with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

“I held a productive and focused call with @SecBlinken as Russia continues to systemically aggravate the security situation in the east of Ukraine and in Crimea,” Kuleba tweeted.

Earlier in the week, national security adviser Jake Sullivan “affirmed the United States’ unwavering support” for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in a phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart, Kirby said.