Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 14.12.2018
President Petro Poroshenko literally delivered NATO support to Ukraine when he flew home to Kyiv with secure communications equipment. The NATO alliance was making good on its promise to support Ukraine, and the Ukrainian government was making good on its promise to support the Armed Forces of Ukraine as they fight against the invaders from the Russian Federation in Donbas. This comes at a critical time, as the Russian aggressor is preparing a military offensive against Ukraine, and thus an expansion of Putin’s War in Europe.
On December 13, the Ukrainian President and the NATO Secretary-General met in Brussels. President Petro Poroshenko and Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg discussed Russian aggression in and around the Sea of Azov. Mr. Stoltenberg said: “There can be no justification for Russia’s use of military force against Ukrainian ships and sailors.” He reaffirmed NATO’s full support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
NATO allies pledged 40 million euros for NATO-Ukraine Trust Funds. These projects include initiatives such as medical rehabilitation of Ukrainian soldiers wounded in Putin’s War, “Command, Control, Communications and Computers (C4),” cyber defence, and logistics and standardization. These projects are part of a radical reform of Ukraine’s military, security, and intelligence services to achieve NATO standards. Ukraine aspires to join the alliance, and NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg recognized that in his remarks on December 13.
Mr. Stoltenberg also announced that NATO will deliver secure communications equipment for the Armed Forces of Ukraine by the end of this year. As part of their preparations for a military offensive against Ukraine, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation have moved advanced electronic warfare equipment into Russian-occupied Ukrainian Donbas and Russian-occupied Ukrainian Crimea.
Ukraine's news portals reported that not only was secure communications equipment delivered before the end of the year, but some of it was on President Poroshenko’s aircraft when he returned to Kyiv on December 13. A NATO official said an encrypted radio communications device and portable GPS trackers were placed on the Ukrainian government aircraft. A key feature of this equipment is its resistance to electronic jamming used by the Russians on the battlefront in Donbas.
President Poroshenko stressed that only a strong response by NATO will have any effect at stopping Russian aggression. Speaking at the press conference after meeting with the NATO Secretary-General, President Poroshenko said: “Russia’s attack on Ukraine has become a test of the resilience of the entire Euro-Atlantic community. Russia has lost trust and reliability as a partner as a result of such actions, and our response to the Russian aggression in the Black Sea should be powerful.”
NATO allies called on the Russian Federation to release unconditionally the Ukrainian sailors and ships without delay as well as to ensure unhindered access to Ukrainian ports in the Sea of Azov and restore freedom of navigation.
In fact, the Russian Federation is holding 24 Ukrainian Navy sailors illegally, treating them as criminal suspects rather than according to their proper status as prisoners of war subject to the protections of the Geneva Convention. Russian authorities have refused to allow delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit the Ukrainian POWs. Having seized the Ukrainian naval vessels “Berdyansk,” “Nikopol,” and “Yanu Kapu” in an act of piracy in international waters of the Black Sea, the Russians refuse to release them. Far from opening the international Kerch Strait to navigation, the Russian Federation has imposed an effective maritime blockade on the Ukrainian ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol, but restricting Ukrainian merchant shipping to and from the Sea of Azov.
The Russian Federation committed an overt act of war on November 25 and has been committing war crimes since. The Armed Forces of the Russian Federation are preparing for a military offensive. The support from NATO secured by President Poroshenko on December 13 is significant. But it may not be sufficient to change Putin’s mind that now is the time for him to expand his invasion of Ukraine.