As Trump continues to defend his Putin bromance, Mattis just signalled the US will continue arming one of Moscow’s biggest foes

  • The Pentagon on Friday announced it’s giving $US200 million to Ukraine to bolster its defences as its conflict with pro-Russian separatists rages on.
  • This move comes as President Donald Trump continues to face backlash over a recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  • The conflict in Ukraine has resulted in the deaths of roughly 10,000 people, including 3,000 civilians, and displaced roughly 1.7 million.

The Pentagon on Friday announced it’s giving $US200 million to Ukraine to bolster its defences as its conflict with pro-Russian separatists rages on.

This move comes as President Donald Trump continues to defend his controversial relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the two world leaders met in Helsinki earlier this week, highlighting the disconnect between the president’s rhetoric and his administration’s policies.

“The added funds will provide equipment to support ongoing training programs and operational needs, including capabilities to enhance Ukraine’s command and control, situational awareness systems, secure communications, military mobility, night vision, and military medical treatment,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

The statement also said the US has given more than $US1 billion to Ukraine since conflict broke out there following the annexation of Crimea by Russia in 2014.

Meanwhile, Trump on Thursday tweeted his meeting with Putin had been a “great success” while once again stating the “Fake News Media” was the “real enemy of the American people.”

The Trump administration this week also said discussions are “underway” to host Putin in Washington this fall, a visit that could occur close to the 2018 midterms.

Trump and the US intelligence community’s Russian rift

The US intelligence community, which concluded Russia interfered in the 2016 US presidential election under Putin’s guidance, has warned the Kremlin is also planning attacks on future US elections – including the midterms.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats appeared to be shocked on Thursday when he learned Putin was being invited by the Trump administration to the nation’s capital after spending much of the week reiterating warnings about Russia’s dubious intentions regarding the US electoral process.

Trump sided with Putin over the US intelligence community on the subject of Russian election interference during a press conference in Helsinki on Monday, only to walk back on his statements upon returning to the US.

The president claimed he’d misspoke during his summit with Putin and agreed with the US intelligence community that Russia had interfered in the election, though he added it could be “other people also.”

The White House on Friday also said it was rejecting a proposal from Putin to hold a referendum in eastern Ukraine, calling the Russian leader’s suggestion “illegitimate.”

The conflict in Ukraine has resulted in the deaths of roughly 10,000 people, including 3,000 civilians, and displaced roughly 1.7 million.

Though Trump has long signified a desire to have a strong relationship with Putin and often complimented the Russian leader, his administration has maintained support for Ukraine in its fight against the Russian-leaning separatists in the Donbass region.

The US government in recent months delivered Javelin anti-tank missiles to the Ukraine, a move met with resounding approval by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Mattis: ‘Russia should suffer consequences for its aggressive and destabilizing behaviour’

Defence Secretary James Mattis has maintained a hawkish stance on Russia but on Wednesday urged Congress to waive sanctions on allies who purchase Russian arms over an apparent concern it could push these countries into the Kremlin’s arms.

“Russia should suffer consequences for its aggressive and destabilizing behaviour as well as its continuing illegal occupation of Ukraine,” Mattis said in a letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain.

The letter added, “[But] as we impose necessary and well-justified costs on Russia for its malign behaviour, at the same time there is a compelling need to avoid significant unintended damage to our long-term, national strategic interests.”

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