In the two years since a ceasefire agreement ended large-scale fighting between the Ukrainian Army and pro-Russian rebels controlling a large portion of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine, things remained fairly quiet, but as violence has once again been increasing in the region, the United States Defense Department made a statement in support of the Ukrainian government, but emphasizing the need for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
Over the past two weeks, eastern Ukraine has seen the most violent clashes between Ukrainian forces and the Russian-backed rebels since fighting ended in 2015. More than thirty-five people have been killed through direct combat and indirect fire engagements in recent weeks, primarily in the area around Avdiivka-Yasynuvata.
“We’re deeply concerned with the recent spike in violence in eastern Ukraine,” he said. “We reaffirm U.S. support for full implementation of the Minsk agreements and we continue to provide security assistance to Ukraine.” Navy Captain Jeff Davis, the director of defense press operations, told reporters on Tuesday.
Davis went on to discuss the $335 million the United States government provided to Ukraine in 2016 for security assistance. The funds, along with about three hundred and fifty US troops, have been used to establish a security training program with the support of other allied and partner nations. Davis emphasized that American forces were only in Ukraine to provide training to the local military, and not to engage with rebel combatants.
According to Davis, the Defense Department is concerned about the recent rash of violence, but they don’t see it as a part of a larger offensive operation, or as a sign of Russian military aggression or expansion.
“We’re troubled by it, we’ve taken note of it,” he said. “I can tell you what we haven’t seen is any sort of large-scale movement of Russian forces that would suggest that this is part of something bigger.”
Davis went on to emphasize the importance of seeking a diplomatic resolution to the violence.
“We do however continue to believe that there’s no military solution to the crisis and that the Minsk agreements are the only way to resolve the conflict peacefully,” he said.
“Our focus has been on supporting Ukraine and pursuing a durable diplomatic solution that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Davis added.
These statements, while political on the surface, were likely meant to emphasize that the United States military has no current plans to intervene in the ongoing fighting that’s taking place in the Ukraine.
The United States levied sanctions against the Kremlin for their annexation of Crimea starting in 2014, with a number of other nations following suit. Although President Trump has suggested that he would consider lifting those sanctions as a part of a nuclear disarmament deal with Moscow, no effort has been made thus far from either party.
Because of America’s stance regarding Russian aggression in the region, some have wondered if the United States would be willing to take a more active role this time. At least for now, it would seem the Defense Department has no intention of getting involved directly.
Image courtesy of Reuters