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 McCainTrump's dangerous Guantánamo fixation will fuel fire for terrorists Tech beefs up lobbying amid Russia scrutiny Ad encourages GOP senator to vote 'no' on tax bill MORE (R-Ariz.) is again urging President Trump to provide lethal aid to Ukraine as Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisEric Trump: My father is 'not playing' on national security NSC to present Trump M deal to arm Ukraine against Russia Iraqi forces retake last ISIS-held town 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 ObamaReport: FCC chair to push for complete repeal of net neutrality Right way and wrong way Keystone XL pipeline clears major hurdle despite recent leak 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.