AP FACT CHECK: Trump distorts Obama-Biden aid to Ukraine

WASHINGTON (AP) — Casting himself as tough on Russia, former President Donald Trump lowballed the amount of U.S. military aid provided to Ukraine during the Obama-Biden administration and claimed that only he himself in recent history didn’t face a Russian invasion of another country. Not true.

Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, meanwhile, made a suspect claim that all of Ukraine’s weapons now in use came from the Trump administration.

A look at the weekend claims and reality:

TRUMP, comparing military aid in his administration to that under President Barack Obama: “I was the one that sent the Javelins, not Obama. Obama sent blankets.” — rally Saturday in Commerce, Georgia.

PENCE: “The Obama-Biden administration only sent them meals and blankets.” — interview Friday on Fox News Channel.

THE FACTS: Trump and Pence are misrepresenting the amount of aid under Obama and Biden and glossing over their own delays in helping Ukraine.

While the Obama administration refused to provide Ukraine with lethal weapons in 2014 to fight Russian-backed separatists, it offered a range of other military and security aid — not just “blankets.” The administration’s concern was that providing lethal weapons like Javelin anti-tank missiles might provoke Russian President Vladimir Putin to escalate the conflict in the separatist Donbas area of Ukraine near Russia’s border.

By March 2015, the Obama administration had provided more than $120 million in security aid for Ukraine and promised $75 million worth of equipment, including counter-mortar radars, night vision devices and medical supplies, according to the Defense Department. The U.S. also pledged 230 Humvee vehicles.

The U.S. aid offer came after Putin in 2014 annexed Crimea and provided support for separatists in eastern cities.

Ultimately between 2014 and 2016, the Obama administration committed more than $600 million in security aid to Ukraine.

In the last year of the Obama administration, the U.S. established the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which provided U.S. military equipment and training to help defend Ukraine against Russian aggression. From 2016 to 2019, Congress appropriated $850 million for this initiative.

The Trump administration in 2017 agreed to provide lethal aid to Ukraine, later committing to sell $47 million in Javelins.

But two years later, Trump delayed the release of congressionally approved security assistance for Ukraine as part of an effort to pressure Ukraine to announce an investigation of his political rival, Joe Biden. The matter was part of Trump’s 2020 impeachment trial.

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TRUMP: “In fact, I stand as the only president of the 21st century on whose watch Russia and Putin did not invade any other country.” — Saturday rally.

THE FACTS: Trump is not the only one.

Putin, who served as Russia’s president from 2000 to 2008, and then as prime minister before returning to the presidency in 2012, did in fact invade Georgia in 2008 during George W. Bush’s second term. He also moved in on Ukraine in 2014 on Obama’s watch. It’s also true that Putin did not invade a country during Trump’s term.

But Bill Clinton, who finished his second term in January 2001, also never saw an invasion by Putin into another country. Russia did attack Chechnya twice in the 1990s, but Chechnya is a region of Russia, not a country.

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PENCE: “The Ukrainian soldiers are using the arms that our administration provided to them, and they were suspended by the Biden administration.” — Fox interview.

THE FACTS: That’s a stretch. With both sides going through weapons and ammunition very quickly in the brutal Ukraine-Russia war, it’s dubious that the Javelins Ukraine received from the U.S. during the Trump years would be still on the shelf. Trump did not provide Stinger anti-aircraft systems to the Ukrainians.

Including the $800 million package announced by Biden on March 16, the total designated military aid for Ukraine since Biden took office is about $2 billion. The assistance, some of it drawn from $13.6 billion in military and humanitarian assistance recently approved by Congress to help Ukraine and its neighbors, has included a number of lethal weapons such as Stingers, Javelin anti-armor systems, Mi-17 helicopters, grenade launchers, Humvees, body armor and helmets.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged the West to provide his country with warplanes and air defense missiles, stressing on Sunday that “it’s necessary not just for Ukraine’s freedom, but for the freedom of Europe.”

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EDITOR’S NOTE — A look at the veracity of claims by political figures.

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