On a three-day visit to Ukraine, which concluded Saturday, Gen. Ben Hodges, the commander of the U.S. Army Europe, fielded questions from Ukrainian soldiers and reporters about the future of the U.S. presence in that country and elsewhere as Washington is seeking to reassure allies and partners that the U.S. remains committed to the continent, amid questions arising ahead of the presidential election, The Washington Street Journal reported.
Gen. Hodges repeatedly emphasized that support in Congress for Ukraine has been bipartisan and stability in Europe is unquestionably in America`s economic and national-security interests, according to WSJ.
Speaking to reporters in Lviv, Gen. Hodges noted that supporting Ukraine with non-lethal military assistance has received bipartisan support in Congress.
”No matter who is president. No matter who controls Congress, the United States is always going to be interested and need security and stability in Europe,” Gen. Hodges said.
Gen. Hodges and other U.S. military leaders were in Ukraine reviewing the international training effort and the overhaul of its military medicine.
A range of U.S. military officials have noted they have taken a number of steps to demonstrate a renewed commitment to European defense, including the decision to send an armored infantry brigade to the continent early next year, build up stocks of military equipment and to participate in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization buildup of forces in Poland and the Baltic States.
Gen. Hodges, who is expected to remain in command of U.S. Army forces in Europe through the summer, said the military has plans to rotate in new trainers and hold a series of large exercises in the Black Sea region.
”My expectation is the U.S. Army will be given the mission to continue supporting Ukraine for as far as I can see,” he said.
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has made statements about making support to NATO allies conditional on their military spending and suggested he could re-evaluate the U.S. policy of refusing to recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea. Such statements have made some officials in Ukraine nervous.
Some Ukrainian officials have said privately they worry that the election of Mr. Trump could result in a wholesale change in U.S. policy, including a weakening of sanctions on Russia or reduction in support for the Ukrainian military.
At the Ukrainian military academy in Lviv, one Ukrainian cadet asked why the U.S. was helping Ukraine and another asked if the U.S. would help Ukraine fight Russia.
Gen. Hodges replied that the U.S. policy—providing nonlethal aid and training—was clear. But he added that the Pentagon had appointed retired Army Gen. John Abizaid, as a military adviser to the Ukrainian ministry of defense, a sign he said of a long-term commitment.
The U.S. currently has approximately 300 soldiers deployed to Ukraine, helping train Ukrainian troops at the Yavoriv training ground in the western part of the country.
”As long as Ukraine invites us we will continue to do this,” Gen. Hodges told the cadets.