In the last 30 years, the United States National Guard has been building partnerships abroad as part of the State Partnership Program (SPP). Through SPP, the National Guard conducts military-to-military engagements in support of defense security goals but also leverages whole-of-society relationships and capabilities to facilitate broader interagency and corollary engagements spanning military, government, economic and social spheres.
As of 2022, the SPP includes 85 partnerships with 93 nations around the globe. Following its independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Ukrainian public opinion was divided between reaching out to the West or staying aligned with Russia. Ukraine became in 1993 one of the many European countries to join the State Partnership Program, where each country was paired with an American state, and Ukraine was paired with California.
The SPP was based on an effort the US suggested to NATO in order to help former Soviet and Warsaw Pact nations reform their militaries along Western lines. The program had many objectives, including helping the nations become more interoperable with NATO forces. US officials believed that pairing with state National Guards made more sense than pairing with active-duty forces, as the militaries in these countries had missions more closely aligned with the National Guard than those of active-duty forces.
These militaries, in fact, could be called upon to assist in disasters and humanitarian crises, just like National Guard personnel help in hurricane relief, forest fires and tornadoes. Also, the partner militaries often worked closely with law enforcement in a way that mirrored how National Guard troops on state missions sometimes do. In addition to that, National Guard units often see personnel staying in place for an entire career, allowing the state and the partner military personnel to bond in a personal way, making the collaboration even more effective.