Hill & Holmes Confirm Trump Policy Provided Aid For Ukraine, Obama Made Political Decision Not Do So

STEVE CASTOR: The Trump Administration changed courses from its predecessor and provided lethal defensive assistance to the Ukraine. Were you in favor of arming the Ukrainians with the Javelins?

DR. FIONA HILL: I was not initially in 2015 before I joined the government, and I’m sure that  many people on the Committee have seen that I wrote an opinion piece with a colleague at the Brookings Institution in that juncture, because I was very worried at that particular point in time that the Ukrainian military was not in a fit state to really take on broad, sophisticated weapons, be they defensive or offensive weapons. And I worried that there was not a long-term sustainable plan given the overwhelming force that the Russians could apply against Ukrainians. However, when I came into government in 2017 and started to interact with all of my colleagues at the Pentagon, and you had Laura Cooper here yesterday, I realized, in fact, that there’d been an awful lot of work done on this and that there was a clear and consistent plan for the sustainability long-term of the Ukrainian military, so I changed my mind.

MR. CASTOR: Okay, and you’re, in fact, one of the—I believe the only—witness that we have spoken to that has been able to articulate the opposition to providing the Javelins. And as we understand it, during the Obama administration, the interagency consensus was to provide the Javelins, but they were not provided. Were you aware of the decision back then?

DR. HILL: I was, and I think it was very much made on a political basis about concerns that this would provoke the Russians depending on how this was presented. And we were very mindful of that also when there were discussions internally about the lethal defensive weapons inside of the administration.

MR. CASTOR: Mr. Holmes, you’re on the ground in Kiev, and the Javelins have now been authorized, provided. What’s the view from the field, the U.S. Embassy as to the effect of the Javelins.

MR. DAVID HOLMES: They are an important strategic deterrent. They are not actively employed in combat operations right now, but the mere idea that were the Russians to advance substantially using certain kinds of armor, that the Ukrainians would have this capability deters them from doing so. It also, thereby, sends a symbolic message to the Ukrainian military that they have access to this high end technology and that we trust them to do it. I would only add also, they have offered to buy some using their own funds. The initial tranche was provided through a program to do that, but they have offered to spend their own money to buy more, so I think they think they’re important.

MR. CASTOR: Ambassador Taylor has testified, Mr. Kent has testified that this is, in fact, the consensus of the interagency, of providing the Javelins. In your experience, working with Ambassador Taylor, was he also very much an advocate for this?