Top Republicans visit Ukraine in push for arms

Top Republicans visit Ukraine in push for arms

Top Republicans met with Ukrainian leaders in Kiev on Monday to offer their support and intensify pressure on President Obama to provide the country with arms.

The delegation was led by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyPelosi blasts California Republicans for supporting tax bill Lawmakers, celebs honor Tony Bennett with Library of Congress Gershwin Prize Pete King rips White House budget chief for trying to ‘screw’ NY MORE (R-Calif.) and included House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas).

McCarthy said the U.S. and international community should do more to strengthen Ukraine and help it defend its territory from Russia.

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"I believe this international support should include the provision of defensive weapons, training, and intelligence to the Ukrainian military," he said in a statement.

Thornberry told reporters on Tuesday the conflict is "in many ways, the most significant threat to peace and stability since the end of WWII."

"The president has not yet decided whether he supports providing additional defensive lethal assistance to Ukraine, but there is a great deal of support in Congress," he said, according to Agence France Presse. 

"I'm hopeful that the president will agree with us soon.” 

Thornberry said Moscow "had already crossed the red line when they invaded Ukraine" and that Ukraine therefore "ought to have the ability to defend themselves".

Thornberry also tweeted pictures of him and others in the delegation meeting Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

The visit comes a year after Moscow invaded and annexed Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, and began providing support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The White House and European allies though have rebuffed calls to provide Ukraine with arms, opting instead to sanction Moscow and provide Kiev with nonlethal military assistance.

The Obama administration fears that sending weapons would provoke more aggression from Moscow. 

But Congress is growing impatient.

Thornberry and committee ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) introduced legislation in February authorizing $1 billion in lethal aid for Ukraine. 

Last week, the House passed a resolution by an overwhelming 348-48 majority urging Obama to arm Ukraine, which has lost more than 6,000 people in its fight with the Russian-backed separatists.

"It is clear that any effort to support Ukraine must also be accompanied by a strategy to confront Vladimir Putin's regime in Moscow and its systematic violations of the Minsk agreements, its aggression and destabilizing activities abroad, and its repression at home," McCarthy said. 

The White House has not closed the door to providing lethal arms, saying for the past year that it us under consideration.

"The United States continues to work closely with our allies in Europe who are seeking to de-escalate the situation in Ukraine," said White House press secretary Josh Earnest. 

"They are seeking to work in a diplomatic fashion, because we know that the only way to resolve that situation is not on the battlefield, but around the negotiating table," he said.

— This story was updated at 11:45 a.m.