US

US sending nonlethal aid to Ukraine military

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. will send medical supplies, helmets and other nonlethal aid to the Ukrainian military in response to Russia's "dangerously irresponsible" efforts to destabilize the country, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday.

Hagel told a Pentagon news conference that he telephoned Ukraine's acting defense minister to tell him that President Barack Obama had approved the assistance, which does not include weapons. Hagel said the Obama administration will "continue to review" additional aid requested by Ukraine.

Washington had recently sent prepackaged meals for the Ukrainian military. Speaking alongside his Polish counterpart, Tomasz Siemoniak, Hagel said the U.S. and its NATO allies have to consider the possibility that Russia's actions in Ukraine point to a broader campaign to retake territories of the former Soviet Union.

"I think we have to be alert to all possibilities," Hagel said. The actions of the Russians over the last two months are not only irresponsible and violate "territorial integrity and sovereignty of sovereign nation, but it's dangerously irresponsible."

He said the 28-nation NATO alliance, of which Ukraine is not a member, has to "think through what are the possibilities, what could happen" after the Ukraine crisis is over. "So, yes, we have to look at, based on past actions, we have to look at every possibility."

Siemoniak said his government is deeply concerned by Russian actions in Ukraine and what they might portend for other countries formerly in the Soviet orbit. He called Ukraine "a situation where in the name of the protection of unthreatened interests of the rights of the minority, a brutal intervention is taking place."

Hagel said he and Siemoniak discussed a "solidarity and partnership roadmap" for closer U.S.-Polish defense ties. He said they identified new areas of military-to-military cooperation, including special operations forces, air forces and additional military exercises and training.

Hagel said they agreed to invite other NATO member countries, including Romania, to contribute to a U.S.-Polish aviation detachment that currently includes a dozen U.S. F-16 fighter jets that operates from a Polish air base.

"This regionalized approach will help strengthen both Poland and its neighbors," Hagel said.

Associated Press writer Pauline Jelinek contributed to this report.

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