DOVER — Tensions surrounding a potential invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces can be felt as nearby as Dover Air Force Base.
Over the past week, United States Air Force airmen from the 436th Aerial Support Squadron have been busy loading palletized ammunition, weapons and other equipment bound for Ukraine from Dover AFB.
The cargo movements come in response to Russia placing 127,000 troops just across its border with Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, sparking fears of an impending Russian invasion.
“Under the direction of U.S. Transportation Command, Dover Air Force Base is supporting the movement of security assistance cargo to Ukraine via commercial cargo aircraft,” the 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs Department said in a statement. “The Defense Security Cooperation Agency is coordinating this effort.”
During a press conference on Wednesday, Pentagon spokesman John F. Kirby told reporters the U.S. continues to send security assistance to Ukraine.
“I would first say we have acted,” Mr. Kirby said. “We’re shipping over additional security assistance to the Ukrainians, as we speak. (Planes are) taking off and landing in Kyiv. So, we are acting.
“And (President Joe Biden) has made clear in two conversations with (Russian President Vladimir Putin) that there will be severe consequences largely of an economic nature if he conducts another invasion, another incursion of Ukraine.”
The Defense Visual Information Distribution Service released photos of Dover airmen loading jets with cargo in support of a security assistance mission bound for Ukraine this week.
“The U.S. and Ukraine first initiated a partnership in 1993,” according to DVIDS. “Missions such as this demonstrate the U.S. commitment to Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“The United States reaffirms its steadfast commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in support of a secure and prosperous Ukraine.”
Since 2014, the United States has committed more than $5.4 billion in total assistance to Ukraine, including security and non-security assistance.
“We remain committed to helping Ukraine defend itself through a range of security assistance articles,” Mr. Kirby said. “That assistance continues to flow from the United States. It also continues to flow from some of our allies and partners.
“They can speak to what they’re providing, but we remain committed to helping Ukrainian armed forces defend themselves.”
Meanwhile, airmen from Dover AFB have been busy answering the call to get cargo moved across the world as quickly as possible.
“These efforts show the unique mission and capabilities of Air Mobility Command, which provides our nation with one of its most important strategic and asymmetric advantages – the ability to rapidly project and sustain joint combat power at speed, distance, and scale at the time and place of our nation’s choosing,” the 436th Airlift Wing Public Affairs Department said in a statement. “We do this through a combination of military and commercial options.”
The Pentagon announced on Monday that some 8,500 U.S.-based military personnel were put on a high state of alert.
The United States is also having active dialogues with allies and partners in Europe about what they think is necessary to bolster their own defensive capabilities.
“We are increasing the alert posture on quite a number of U.S. troops here, stateside, as well as taking a look at what could possibly be moved around on the European continent,” Mr. Kirby said.
Russia has amassed many troops in Russia and Belarus near the border with Ukraine. The number of troops there continues to rise.
“We have seen a consistent accumulation of combat power by the Russians in the western part of their country around the borders with Ukraine and Belarus,” said Mr. Kirby. “[Russian President Vladimir Putin] continues to add to his force capability in western Russia and in Belarus.
“We’ve seen no signs of de-escalation ... what we’re hoping for is a de-escalation. And one of the best ways they could de-escalate the tension would be to remove some of those forces away from Ukraine.”
Mr. Kirby said the United States still believes there is time for diplomacy.
“We still don’t believe Mr. Putin has made a final decision whether to conduct another incursion/invasion into Ukraine,” said Mr. Kirby. “We still think there’s time and space here for diplomacy and dialogue to work.
“We still think there’s room and time for diplomacy, and the department wants to make sure that we help provide that ... time and space for the diplomats.”
Ukraine’s foreign ministry noted the U.S.’s recent movements but expressed displeasure.
“While we respect right of foreign nations to ensure safety & security of their diplomatic missions, we believe such a step to be a premature one & an instance of excessive caution,” spokesman Oleg Nikolenko tweeted Monday.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Follow @MikeFinneyDSN on Twitter.