GOP Lawmakers Growing Skeptical of Increased US-NATO Training & Arming of Ukrainian Troops
Divisions are simmering in Oklahoma's legislature after the Pentagon started to train Ukrainian troops in the state. At a federal level, Republican lawmakers have expected to trim the Ukraine aid bonanza.
About 90 to 100 Ukrainians have started to learn to operate and maintain the Patriot missile defense system
at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, according to the US Department of Defense. The training is expected to last for several months.
The move has prompted Oklahoma Republicans to vocally oppose the Pentagon's initiative: earlier this month, Oklahoma GOP Senator Nathan Dahm co-authored a resolution with Republican Representative Jim Olsen to direct the Pentagon to not send foreign soldiers to the state. The resolution is expected to be discussed next month after the legislative session kicks off on February 6.
In his bill, Dahm argued that: first, "the US Congress has not formally declared war as required by the US Constitution regarding the Russian-Ukrainian conflict"; second, the nation of Ukraine and the soldiers of the Ukrainian military are not members of NATO; and, third, the Ukrainian military has a record of misfiring missiles and killing innocent Polish citizens. Thus, the senator urged the US federal and state governments to keep foreign soldiers off Oklahoma soil.
16 January 2023, 14:17 GMT
Dahm warned that training Ukrainian soldiers during a conflict between Russia and Ukraine constitutes nothing short of an escalation.
The Oklahoma senator's concerns appear justified given that the Pentagon and NATO have recently ramped up the arming and training of Ukrainian troops as the Russian military advances in the Bakhmut region in a bid to liberate Donbass.
On January 15, US media reported that the US military had kicked off expanded combat training of Ukrainian forces in Germany. Some 500 soldiers are reported to participate in the "combined arms" program over the next weeks.
Likewise, on January 6, the Biden administration announced nearly $3.8 billion in security assistance for Ukraine and European allies. The new package includes 50 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles (IFV), as well as 500 TOW anti-tank missiles and 250,000 rounds of ammunition for use with the IFVs.
Washington will also send additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), RIM-7 missiles for air defense, 4,000 Zuni aircraft rockets and other military equipment. NATO member states are following the US' suit - pledging to send tanks and other fighting vehicles for the Ukrainian military.
On Thursday, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin are due to convene another session of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany, according to the US DoD.
Some US Republican congress leaders, who retook the House and elected Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as speaker, are viewing these efforts with growing skepticism, prompting concerns in the US mainstream press over forthcoming cuts to Washington's aid to Ukraine
According to the US media, one of the concessions made by McCarthy to a small group of GOP representatives was to cap discretionary spending at fiscal 2022 levels or lower, which would amount to around a $75 billion, or 10%, cut to defense programs. It is reported that these potential cuts would substantially limit Washington's aid to Kiev.