YAVORIV- The Ukrainian Armed Forces have just received the first shipment of “deep concerns” as part of a multinational military aid package in response to last Sunday’s incident in the Kerch Strait, where Russian coast guard ships attacked and captured three Ukrainian naval vessels along with their crews. Almost immediately after the incident was reported, representatives from the US and several of its NATO allies immediately announced their intentions to send aid to Ukraine in the form of both “concerns” and later “deep concerns” in order to counter Russia’s actions.
One State Department official told reporters on Monday that the Trump administration had also considered sending “grave concerns,” but this was later canceled so as “to avoid provoking escalation from the Russian side.” Meanwhile, experts disagree on whether the White House’s response was adequate or too provocative given the danger of opening another front in the conflict between the government in Kiev and rebel separatists in the east who are extremely well supplied, wear uniforms and equipment almost identical to that of the Russian armed forces, have more tanks and armored vehicles than some NATO countries, and whose leadership has historically contained a conspicuously high number of Russian citizens since their movement suddenly appeared in the spring of 2014.
“Deep concerns are not nearly enough if you want to send the right message to Putin,” said Anders Auslander, a fellow at a DC-based think tank.
“The only way you are going to raise the costs and deter him from further aggression is to equip Ukraine’s military with extremely grave concerns. There’s simply no other way.”
Other experts, however, suggest that even mild concern could provoke all-out war, possibly drawing the US and its allies into the conflict.
“We have to see things from Moscow’s point of view,” says Steve Kuhn, a professor of Soviet-Russian history.
“For years they’ve been watching as the US and NATO constantly express concern about Russia. If you want to start World War III, I can’t think of a better way than to arm the Ukrainian nationalists with more concerns, especially deep concerns.”
Meanwhile, Ukrainian military personnel are struggling to distribute the concerns and train personnel on how to use them while they are on full alert for a possible Russian ground invasion.
“I don’t understand how we’re supposed to use these,” says Roman Bondarenko, 27, a lieutenant in one of Ukraine’s mechanized infantry brigades.
“All these shipping containers with NATO markings arrived at the rail depot, but when we opened them they were empty. Nothing but air.”
Serhii Hopko, 19, is a soldier in Bondarenko’s platoon who also expressed his disappointment with the latest shipment of NATO military aid.
“We hear reports that the Russians are moving tens of thousands of troops and hundreds of tanks to the border, and we’re supposed to fight with this,” he said, gesturing to the empty shipping container behind him.
Meanwhile, Russian officials slammed the decision to aid Ukraine’s military with deep concerns as “irresponsible” and a “clear provocation.”
“This simply shows that our Western partners are not interested in creating lasting peace in the Donbass, but rather irresponsibly encouraging the Poroshenko regime to escalate the war further,” Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on her official Facebook page.
Zakarhova also warned that Russia would be forced to take “appropriate, and proportional measures” in response to the new aid package. While it is not entirely clear what those measures might entail, military analysts and open source investigators have been monitoring Russian military activity in the region and believe they have already seen signs of a response.
“Based on intelligence provided via satellite imaging, social media, and other open source information, it would appear that Russia is already responding to NATO’s concerns and deep concerns with additional main battle tanks and attack helicopters,” said one Pentagon analyst.