December 22, 2017

U.S. approves sale of light weapons to Ukraine


The U.S. State Department says it has approved an export license for Ukraine to buy certain types of light weapons and small arms from U.S. manufacturers. Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on December 20 that Congress was notified of the decision on December 13.

The license covers weapons in categories such as semiautomatic and automatic firearms up to .50 caliber weapons, combat shotguns, silencers, military scopes, flash suppressors and parts.

It does not allow the sale of heavier weapons, such as Javelin anti-tank missiles, that Ukraine has urged Washington to provide in order to strengthen its capabilities against the Russia-backed separatists it is fighting in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

An article in The Washington Post described the State Department decision as approval of “the largest U.S. commercial sale of lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine.”

The State Department’s Ms. Nauert noted that, “Under the previous two administrations, the U.S. government has approved export licenses to Ukraine, so this is nothing new.” According to Reuters, State Department records show that Ukraine has bought small amounts of light weapons and small arms for several years, both before and after Russia’s seizure of Ukraine’s Crimea region in March 2014.

U.S. exporters can apply for direct commercial-sales licenses, which are reviewed by the State Department on a case-by-case basis, Ms. Nauert said. She noted that the U.S. government has not directly provided lethal defensive equipment to Ukraine, but has not ruled out doing so.

The top U.S. military commander, Gen. Joseph Dunford, said earlier this year that he recommended the U.S. provide lethal defensive weapons to Ukraine to help the country “protect [its] sovereignty.” He said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on September 26 that a proposal to provide lethal aid to Ukraine was awaiting a decision from the White House.

Last month, ABC News reported that senior aides would present U.S. President Donald Trump with a $47 million plan to finance and sell high-tech defensive weapons to Ukraine.

With reporting by The Washington Post, Reuters, CNN, ABC and The Hill. 

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