During a joint press conference Wednesday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, President Donald Trump took a shot at former President Barack Obama, claiming that while the Trump administration provided Ukraine with “anti-tank busters,” Obama simply sent “pillows and sheets.”
Facts First: Trump is being hyperbolic here. While the Obama administration was criticized for its refusal to provide lethal assistance to Ukraine, it did provide more than $100 million in security assistance, as well as a significant amount of defense and military equipment.
By March 2015, the US had committed more than $120 million in security assistance for Ukraine and had pledged an additional $75 million worth of equipment including UAVs, counter-mortar radars, night vision devices and medical supplies, according to the Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
That assistance also included some 230 armored Humvee vehicles.
Trump appears to be echoing a critique leveled at the Obama administration by the late Republican Sen. John McCain. “The Ukrainians are being slaughtered and we’re sending blankets and meals,” McCain said in 2015. “Blankets don’t do well against Russian tanks.”
While it never provided lethal aid, many of the items that the Obama administration did provide were seen as critical to Ukraine’s military. Part of the $250 million assistance package that the Trump administration announced (then froze and later unfroze) included many of the same items that were provided under Obama, including medical equipment, night vision gear and counter-artillery radar.
The Trump administration did approve the provision of arms to Ukraine, including sniper rifles, rocket launchers and Javelin anti-tank missiles, something long sought by Kiev.