McCain renews calls for Trump to send weapons to Ukraine

McCain renews calls for Trump to send weapons to Ukraine
© Greg Nash

Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainOvernight Defense: Pompeo lays out new Iran terms | Pentagon hints at more aggressive posture against Iran | House, Senate move on defense bill Senate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA Sarah Sanders: ‘Democrats are losing their war against women in the Trump administration’ MORE (R-Ariz.) is again urging President Trump to provide lethal aid to Ukraine as Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisMattis receives honorary doctorate from international affairs school Overnight Defense: Over 500 amendments proposed for defense bill | Measures address transgender troops, Yemen war | Trump taps acting VA chief as permanent secretary Defense bill amendment would protect open transgender military service MORE arrives in the country for a meeting with its president and top defense official. 

"It is long past time for the United States to provide Ukraine the defensive lethal assistance it needs to deter and defend against further Russian aggression," McCain, the chairman of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement Wednesday.

The senator's renewed calls for the U.S. to provide lethal weaponry to Ukraine as it battles pro-Russia separatists in the eastern Donbas region comes two days after Trump announced a new broad strategy for Afghanistan. 

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With the change of course in Afghanistan, McCain said, Trump "now has the same opportunity with regard to Ukraine."

The senior Arizona Republican argued that providing weapons to Ukraine "is not opposed to a peaceful resolution of this conflict — it is essential to achieving it."

"As long as the status quo remains, Russia has no reason to change its behavior, and we should only expect more violence and more death," he said.

Russia has denied providing support to the separatists, but U.S. officials have claimed otherwise.

The president already has the authority to send lethal assistance to Ukraine under the annual defense policy bill. But former President Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaThe true commander in tweet Meghan Markle's pre-royal 'finishing lessons' and an etiquette of equality Hannity on Acosta claim he was tough on Obama: 'Only thing missing were the pom-poms' MORE chose instead to send only nonlethal assistance to the country. 

During his visit to Kiev, Mattis is expected to reassure the country's leaders that the U.S. remains opposed to Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea, according to The Associated Press

Trump entered office in January with hopes of improving the relationship between the U.S. and Russia. But ties have grown tense amid ongoing investigations into Russia's role in the 2016 election and possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Moscow.

Also fueling tensions between the two countries is a sanctions package signed into law earlier this month that penalizes Russia for its efforts to meddle in the election. Trump reluctantly signed the measures after they were overwhelmingly passed by Congress.