April 16, 2021
It is a great pleasure to be here today to take part in this transfer of authority ceremony from Task Force Illini to Task Force Raven.
For more than six years, the Joint Multinational Training Group – here in Yavoriv has stood as a symbol of the security partnership between Ukraine, the United States, and NATO Allies and partners, including Canada, Denmark, Lithuania, Poland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Together, this training group is helping to forge a new kind of NATO-compatible, battle ready, professional fighting force in Ukraine.
You may not know that I was born and grew up in the great U.S. state of California, and I am particularly proud that the first group of National Guard forces that served here in Yavoriv was the California National Guard. They have moved on, of course, but were followed by National Guard troops from around the United States, including most recently from Illinois, and now from Washington state.
Each of the rotations has stayed in Ukraine for about nine months, conducting work that demonstrates in real, tangible terms the United States commitment to helping Ukraine fight Russian-backed aggression in the Donbas. And that work is even more critical now.
As we stand here in Yavoriv, tens of thousands of Russian forces stand near the border with Ukraine and in the Ukrainian territory of Crimea, and are increasing in number.
The United States and our NATO Allies and partners in Europe are deeply concerned about this escalation.
And in addition to this provocative buildup of troops, the government of Russia continues to conduct a disinformation campaign, falsely claiming Ukraine is escalating tensions. Let me make crystal clear — my team at the U.S. Embassy and I know first hand – Ukraine was not, and is not, taking provocative actions against Russia. In fact, Ukraine has demonstrated admirable restraint in the face of Russia’s intimidation and aggression.
But against the backdrop of Russia’s provocations, it is important to remember that the Ukraine of 2021 – and the Ukrainian armed forces of 2021 – are vastly different than those of 2014.
The Ukraine of 2021 has achieved significant reform – you have improved rule of law, developed the economy, and fought against corruption. In doing so, Ukraine has become more democratic, more responsive to the will and needs of its people, and more resilient to threats, both external and internal.
To better address external threats, the Ukrainian armed forces have become a more capable, more professional fighting force, one of the most capable battle-ready forces in Europe today – and the United States is proud that our cooperative security efforts have supported this impressive development.
Our work together includes the training you do here in Yavoriv – which helps to transform Ukraine’s military into a NATO-interoperable force.
But this is just a part of the $2 billion in security assistance the United States has provided Ukraine since 2014 that has supported a broad range of steps to make Ukraine’s military the capable and effective force that it is today.
The Biden Administration is continuing and enhancing this support.
In March, the Department of Defense announced a new $125 million security assistance package for Ukraine that includes funding for training, equipment, and advisory efforts.
The U.S. Congress has authorized an additional $150 million in security assistance for Ukraine this fiscal year.
And the U.S. European Command will continue bilateral and multinational military exercises such as Rapid Trident, Joint Endeavor, and Sea Breeze.
All of our work together is having an impact. Not only is Ukraine more combat ready than at any time since 2014, but Ukraine was recognized by NATO as an Enhanced Opportunities Partner in 2020 for its contributions to Allied security. And cooperation will continue as Ukraine completes its reform path toward membership in NATO.
Let me conclude by reiterating that the United States remains steadfast in its commitment to supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, including Crimea and its territorial waters.
To ensure Ukraine achieves its Euro-Atlantic aspirations, we and our partners will continue to support Ukraine as it defends itself from Russia’s aggression. Our leadership has made clear that if Russia acts recklessly or aggressively, there will be costs and consequences.
In all of this, the work the JMTG-U does providing mentoring and training to Ukraine’s armed forces is vital, and I am truly honored to be here to recognize it.
To the members of Task Force Illini who have completed your mission here, thank you for your service. You are a credit to our nation.
To the members of Task Force Raven who are just arriving, please know that the work you do here to support our Ukrainian partners is fundamental to helping us meet many of our highest priority foreign policy objectives.
YOUR work delivering greater security and prosperity, not just for Ukraine, but for the wider region and world.
Thank you again and very best wishes for a successful transfer.