Tags: Barack Obama | Russia | Ukraine | Ukraine | arm | defend | Putin

Democrats to Obama: Help Ukrainians Defend Themselves

By    |   Tuesday, 10 Feb 2015 07:09 PM

A growing number of congressional Democrats have joined Republicans in pressing the Obama administration to give Ukraine weapons to defend itself against Russia, which has already seized and annexed Crimea and supports separatist forces who have turned much of Eastern Ukraine into a war zone.

The Daily Beast reported Tuesday that Rep. Adam Smith of Washington — the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee —is joining with Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, a Texas Republican, in pushing the administration to provide arms to the outgunned Ukrainians.

"They need the weapons, they need them soon, and they need them quick. Our credibility is on the line," said Rep. Eliot Engel, ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Engel had just had just returned from the Munich Security Conference, where he spoke with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who emphasized that a well-armed Ukrainian military is the best way to discourage further Russian support of separatists.

"I’ll be satisfied when the president this week, hopefully, announces that we’re going to be giving the Ukrainians defensive armaments," Engel said

The administration has said it would provide $120 million in nonlethal military assistance to Ukraine.

President Obama has the authority to provide more. In December, lawmakers gave him the authority to spend $350 million over three years to provide defensive weapons to Ukraine, which could include ammunition, anti-tank weapons, and radar that can detect incoming artillery.

Last week, more than 30 House lawmakers wrote a letter urging the White House to move quickly to increase military assistance to Ukraine. Signers included prominent Democrats such as Engel, Smith, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, and Reps. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio and Sander Levin of Michigan.

In the Senate, Democrats who have joined with Republicans to press Obama to help the Ukrainians include Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Bill Nelson of Florida.

"Ukrainians are being slaughtered," Blumenthal said. "We need to see that [Russian President Vladimir] Putin understands nothing but force. He is a thug; he has not responded to sanctions."

Last week, a bipartisan group of senators led by Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain and Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island called on the administration to provide "defensive, lethal" weapons to Ukraine, the Huffington Post reported.

Several senators pointed to the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, in which Kiev agreed to give up its nuclear weapons arsenal left over from the Cold War in exchange for assurances that the United States, Russia, and Britain would respect Ukraine's sovereignty and borders.

"We gave our word. And what is the cost if we don't keep our word that we will be there to protect our friend?" said Indiana Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly. "Everybody in the region is scared to death, is afraid of what Vladimir Putin is going to do, and if at some point we don't stand up for our friends, it will only get worse."

On Friday, Vice President Joe Biden appeared to agree, declaring while on a visit to Brussels that Ukrainians are "fighting for their very survival right now."

While Rep. Engel and others believe the administration will decide in favor of military assistance later this week, Pentagon officials who once saw such aid as inevitable now sound dubious.

"I don't think [Obama] will do it," one defense official told the Daily Beast.

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A growing number of congressional Democrats have joined Republicans in pressing the Obama administration to give Ukraine weapons to defend itself against Russia, which has already seized and annexed Crimea and supports separatist forces who have turned much of Eastern...
Ukraine, arm, defend, Putin, Russia, Democrats, support
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2015-09-10
Tuesday, 10 Feb 2015 07:09 PM
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