US Defence Secretary James Mattis to visit Ukraine as country marks independence

US Defence Secretary James Mattis to visit Ukraine as country marks independence

Jim Mattis arrives in Kiev today just in time to commemorate 26 years of Ukrainian independence from the USSR. The

Servicemen march during Ukraine’s Independence Day military parade in central Kiev

Photo: Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters

Jim Mattis arrives in Kiev today just in time to commemorate 26 years of Ukrainian independence from the USSR. The US Defence Secretary will hold talks with President Petro Poroshenko and his defence minister, Stepan Poltorak.

Beyond its independence, Ukraine has little to celebrate these days. Two and a half years after the signing of the second Minsk agreement, the ceasefire that it set out to achieve has become a mere pipe dream.

Indeed, the conflict between the Ukrainian government and Russian-backed rebels in the country’s east seems more deadlocked than ever. With neither France nor Germany able to broker a ceasefire, Mattis’ visit may signal increased US involvement, with both the Pentagon and the State Department having devised plans to supply Ukraine with lethal weapons. While President Trump only reluctantly signed a bill approving new sanctions against Russia, advocates of the move, like Senator John McCain are becoming louder.

It is hard to foresee how Moscow would react if the US were to supply defensive weaponry to Kiev; it’s an incalculable risk, one that may well trigger even greater Russian involvement.

Note: a previous version of this brief indicated Ukraine was celebrating 16 years of independence today. Ukraine has been independent for 26 years. The text has been updated to reflect this.

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