Ukraine and Russia held simultaneous military exercises on Wednesday as NATO ministers rallied against Moscow in Brussels.
The Russians conducted naval drills in the Black Sea amid reports that the US was dispatching two US Navy destroyers to the waters, although Turkish media and officials said the US deployments have been canceled. The US has to notify Ankara to send warships into the Black Sea.
The Ukrainian military simulated repelling a tank and infantry attack near the border of Crimea. Kyiv has been provided a stockpile of anti-tank Javelin missiles by the US, a controversial weapons deal that was approved by President Trump. President Obama chose not to send Ukraine offensive weapons since doing so is a major provocation towards Russia.
Since the US-backed coup in Kyiv in 2014, which sparked the fighting in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, the US has provided Ukraine with $2 billion in military equipment. Ukraine’s military has grown significantly over the years. According to a report from Reuters, Ukraine’s military now has 250,000 troops, compared to 168,000 in 2013.
Over in Brussels, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with other NATO ministers and held a press briefing with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Discussing the situation between Russia and Ukraine, both Stoltenberg and Blinken slammed Moscow for what they called its “aggressive action.”
Austin said the US will continue to provide “materiel support to Ukraine.” Amid the tensions with Russia, the US has delivered several military shipments to Ukraine.