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Since Ukrainian independence in 1991 security cooperation with Western allies has been a key feature of bilateral and multilateral relations. With aspirations to join both the EU and NATO, initial military assistance to Ukraine was largely focused on defence reform, defence planning and capacity building.

In response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the crisis in Eastern Ukraine in 2014, and at the request of the Ukrainian Government, allies significantly stepped up their support. Reiterating their commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, military assistance to the Ukrainian armed forces has been a key part of their overall approach.

In 2015 the UK launched Operation Orbital, a non-lethal training and capacity building operation that provides guidance and training to the Ukrainian armed forces. To date, over 20,000 Ukrainian personnel have been trained under this programme. The UK has also gifted £2,2 million of non-lethal military equipment. In August 2020 the MOD announced that the UK will lead a new multinational maritime training initiative that will boost the capacity of Ukraine’s Navy to act in the Black Sea. 

Since 2014 the United States has provided Ukraine with over $1.6 billion in military assistance, including the training and mentoring of the Ukrainian armed forces, and the provision of military equipment. In contrast to allies, the US began providing Ukraine with lethal weaponry in 2018. In March 2021 the Department of Defense announced a further $125 million military assistance package to Ukraine, the first of its kind under the Biden administration. In response to recent events in the country, the US Congress recently introduced a Bill proposing to increase Ukrainian military assistance to $300 million each year until 2026. 

NATO also have a comprehensive package of assistance in place and is committed to intensifying cooperation and promoting defence reform through capacity building and capability development programmes, including a number of trust funds. In June 2020 Ukraine was granted Enhanced Opportunity Partner status in the Alliance which gives the country preferential access to NATO exercises, training and exchanges of information. Ukraine, and Russia’s recent actions in the region, are expected to feature at the next NATO Heads of State summit in June 2021. 

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