I recently returned from Ukraine, where I conducted assessments with US personnel working to address the significant security and governance issues plaguing the country. We already have one project underway in support of US Army training efforts, and more initiatives are under discussion with the US Embassy. View this project here.
Ukraine, a strategic partner of the United States, has been destabilized by a Russian-backed separatist movement for the last two years. This conflict, characterized by sensational events like Russia’s annexation of the Crimea region and the downing of a Malaysian airliner, has serious repercussions for international security and stability. Some 7,000 people have already been killed in the fighting, and Russian-supported separatists have taken over two eastern provinces.
Citing Russia’s hybrid warfare approach in Ukraine and its large nuclear arsenal, the incoming Chairman of the Joint Chiefs recently named that country the greatest current threat to global security. NATO allies, particularly those on the eastern edge of the alliance with significant Russian minority populations, worry they will be the next targets of Russian expansionism. Russia is capitalizing on these fears via aggressive military posturing while the United States is reinforcing its partnerships in Eastern Europe through joint exercises and an increased presence on the continent.
In Ukraine, the United States is providing training to Ukrainian security forces while also addressing the corruption and economic issues that plague the country. Developing the Ukrainian armed forces’ professionalism, as well as their ability to secure their people and safeguard their borders, is critical to improving stability in both Ukraine itself and in Europe more generally.
While I was in Ukraine, I visited the US trainers and their local trainees at a large base near the Polish border. The Americans, paratroopers from the famed 173rd Airborne Brigade, are training units of the Ukrainian National Guard in basic soldier tasks to make them a professional force. Learn more about the mission here.
When I asked the US soldiers about the greatest needs they saw, they all pointed to a lack of basic medical equipment. They could provide world-class trauma training to the Ukrainians, but the Ukrainians didn’t have the supplies – items like proper tourniquets and bandages – to put this training into action in real-world situations. While every US soldier takes for granted that he or she will have a highly advanced first aid kit that can be used to provide lifesaving assistance to both their buddies and themselves, the Ukrainians simply do not have that critical resource.
When I posed the same question to the Ukrainian soldiers, they echoed the Americans’ assessment that first aid supplies were their greatest need. The medics I talked to had recently served in combat on the front, and they told me that far fewer than 50 percent of the soldiers had any type of first aid equipment. Moreover, the equipment they did have was of very poor quality.
As an example of this, one of the Ukrainian medics showed me the tourniquets they had. Unlike the sturdy reusable US-issue variety that wounded soldiers can apply to themselves with ease, these were simply long rubber bands that required someone else to apply. Furthermore, they could not achieve the level of tension necessary to stop arterial bleeding, especially in a leg wound. With equipment like this, soldiers were dying easily preventable deaths.
Addressing this critical need would have two major benefits. One, it would have the obvious benefit of improving the Ukrainian soldiers’ ability to save lives. Two, it would help strengthen the relationship between the US paratroopers and their Ukrainian partners and by extension, the two countries.
Accordingly, Spirit of America is providing proper first aid kits to every Ukrainian undergoing the training program. Learn more about it, and get involved, here.
Stay tuned for more updates about this project and others we’re working on in this important region.
Director of Field Ops