On Ukraine’s front lines, U.S.-supplied equipment is falling apart - The Washington Post
An aging U.S. Humvee with worn out tires near Ukrainian front lines. on Nov. 6.
Thomas Gibbons-Neff/The Washington Post
The United States has delivered more than $260 million in non-lethal military equipment to help the government of Ukraine in its fight against a Russian-backed insurgency, but some of the U.S.-supplied gear meant to protect and transport Ukrainian military forces is little more than junk.
On the outskirts of the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, for example, one Ukrainian special forces unit is using U.S.-supplied Humvees dating from the late 1980s and early 1990s, based on serial numbers on the vehicles.
Three of the Humvees had plastic doors and windows — barely any protection at all. The tires on one of the trucks blew apart after driving only a few hundred kilometers, the result of sitting in a warehouse too long, said one mechanic.
Another infantry unit of approximately 120 men received from the Pentagon a single bulletproof vest — a type that U.S. troops stopped using in combat during the mid-2000s.
“If the Americans are going to send us equipment, don’t send us secondhand stuff,” said one Ukrainian special forces commander, who like other soldiers spoke on condition of anonymity to criticize the condition of his unit’s gear.
The obsolete equipment was identified on a tour near the front lines in eastern Ukraine with help from mechanics serving in the Ukrainian army and through interviews with front-line troops. In some cases, serial numbers were used to trace the origins of certain vehicles.
The decaying state of U.S.-supplied equipment on Ukraine’s front lines has bred distrust and lowered morale among Ukrainian troops, soldiers said. Experts said the low quality of the gear also calls into question the U.S. government’s commitment to a war that is entering its second year, with well-equipped Russian-backed separatists still firmly entrenched in Ukraine’s eastern region.