Pentagon building aerial FILE
Washington CNN  — 

The Pentagon has officially confirmed it is moving forward with a $250 million security assistance package to Ukraine, half of which was contingent on Kiev making progress on reforms and anti-corruption efforts.

“The Department of Defense announced today its plans for $250 million in Fiscal Year 2020 Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) funds for additional training, equipment, and advisory efforts to strengthen Ukraine’s capacity to more effectively defend itself against Russian aggression,” the Pentagon said in a statement to CNN.

The statement said that the “funds – $125 million of which was conditional on Ukraine’s progress on defense reforms – will provide equipment to support ongoing training programs and operational needs.”

“These security cooperation programs are made possible by Ukraine’s continued progress on key defense institutional and anticorruption reforms,” the statement added.

CNN reported last month that the Pentagon had certified to Congress that Ukraine has made the necessary reforms to justify the additional funding and that the aid package included mobile radar systems designed to detect and track incoming artillery and rocket fire, dozens of ambulances, secure communications equipment, including 100 “tactical tablets” and the patrol boats armed with remote controlled 30mm cannons.

Congress was not expected to block the package given the broad bipartisan support for arming Ukraine.

The Pentagon statement Thursday added that the package “reaffirms the long-standing defense relationship between the United States and Ukraine – a critical partner on the front line of strategic competition with Russia. The United States remains steadfast in its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.”

The Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative was thrust into the spotlight after the Trump administration froze security assistance to Ukraine after it was notified to Congress, an action that led the House of Representatives to impeach President Donald Trump.

The White House has offered shifting and vague accounts of why the hold was implemented and what triggered Trump to ultimately change course and release the money.

Trump administration officials at times cited corruption in Ukraine as justification for freezing the aid, though that justification was undermined by the Pentagon’s certification at the time that Kiev was making progress in combating corruption.

The official who provided that certification, John Rood, then the Pentagon’s under secretary of defense for policy, was ousted shortly after Trump’s acquittal impeachment vote.

The nonpartisan congressional watchdog, the Government Accountability Office, conducted a review which found that the Trump administration broke the law when it withheld US security aid to Ukraine last year that had been appropriated by Congress.

The GAO said that the White House budget office violated the Impoundment Control Act, a 1974 law that limits the White House from withholding funds that Congress has appropriated.

Russia seized and annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and tensions between Kiev and Moscow in the region remain high.

The US has long accused Moscow of arming, backing and even directing separatist fighters in the country’s east in addition to annexing the Crimea peninsula.

The counter artillery radars will enable Ukrainian troops to detect where enemy fire is coming from, a major concern given the ongoing exchanges of fire along the conflict’s frontlines.

The Pentagon’s supplying of armed patrol boats are seen as important given Ukraine’s tensions with Russia in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov.

In 2018, Russian forces seized three Ukrainian vessels and captured 24 Ukrainian sailors following a clash in the Kerch Strait which connects the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov and is the sole access route for ships travelling to Ukraine’s eastern port cities.

The Sea of Azov is much too shallow for most conventional warships to operate, making it the ideal environment for the type of patrol the US is supplying to Ukraine.