Trump Froze Aid to Ukraine to Pressure Participation From European Countries and Due to Corruption Concerns

In June, the Department of Defense announced plans to provide $250 million in military aid to Ukraine, according to Defense News. Also, the State Department planned to provide $141 million in aid funding to this country.

President Donald Trump reportedly asked his staff to freeze for two months $391 million in military aid before dropping the hold a week ago.

Trump confirmed in his remarks during the press conference held at the United Nations on Sept. 24 that he delayed the aid. He said the reason for the delay was due to issues of corruption and to urge European nations to contribute to Ukraine.

“As far as withholding funds, those funds were paid,” Trump said. “They were fully paid. But my complaint has always been, and I’d withhold again, and I’ll continue to withhold until such time as Europe and other nations contribute to Ukraine.” He named Germany and France as among the countries that should “put up money.”

zelensky speaks about phone call
President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hold a meeting in New York on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 25, 2019. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukraine gets the most military aid from the United States.

During the bilateral meeting with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, Trump said: “One of the elements that we discussed is the United States helps Ukraine—but I think that other countries should help Ukraine much more than they’re doing—Germany, France, the European Union nations. … They really should help a lot more.”

Trump said that Ukraine is vital strategically to the European Union, and they should spend much more on military aid to Ukraine.

Zelensky said in response that Ukraine does not need help but needs real support. He also thanked the United States and all of the European countries that provide assistance to Ukraine.

Zelensky’s primary goal after becoming President was to stop corruption that has plagued the country. His government undertook steps to fight crime in the country, and one of them was establishing an anti-corruption court.

According to Zelensky, there are two wars in Ukraine. The first one is to fight corruption. The other one which is also his priority is the war on Donbas which he would like to stop and regain their territories: Crimea, Donbas, Luhansk.

Vice President Mike Pence said that the administration withheld the money for fear of corruption in Ukraine.

“The President wants to be assured that those resources are truly making their way to the kind of investments that will contribute to security and stability in Ukraine,” Pence said. “The simple fact is that the United States has carried the load on most of the security investments in Ukraine.”

Anatoly Pinchuk, Ukrainian expert on economic security says President Trump’s move was meant to leverage European countries—rather than threaten Ukraine that he would stop sending aid.

Pinchuk said that Trump made a similar statement regarding NATO funding when he called for fair participation from NATO allies. Pinchuk referred to Trump’s remarks that the U.S. contributes a lot to NATO, but Germany does not give that much.

“I would consider this as an element of pressure on European countries,” said Pinchuk.

Defense Attaché to the Embassy of Ukraine Major General Volodymyr Havrylov from 2015 to 2018, says the President is looking to invest more at home.

Havrylov said that Trump would like European countries to contribute much more to ease the burden on the United States, as he would instead use the budget to resolve domestic issues.

“In Congress, both Republicans and Democrats support giving assistance to Ukraine. And each year, both parties vote for the allocation of resources to Ukraine,” said Havrylov.

According to the US Department of Defense, Washington has supplied Kyiv with $1.5 billion in military assistance since 2014.

With reporting by Anna Varavva, NTD, Kyiv Ukraine

The Associated Press contributed to this report.